Coastal communities amongst most deprived in UK, says think-tank

5 Sep 17

Britain’s coastal communities rank among the worst performers for earnings, employment, health, education and a range of other economic and social indicators.

That is the message from the Living on the Edge report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank, which found economic output per capita was 23% lower in coastal communities compared with inland local authority areas.

The research took ‘coastal’ to mean anywhere adjacent to the sea, not just traditional holiday resorts.

It said five of the 10 local authorities in Great Britain with the lowest average pay were on the coast: Torbay, North Devon, Gwynedd, Hastings and Torridge.

Five of the 10 areas with the highest unemployment rate were also coastal: Hartlepool, North Ayrshire, Torridge, Hastings, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Half the 20 council areas with the highest proportions of the population with bad or very bad health were coastal.

SMF chief economist Scott Corfe said: “Many coastal communities are poorly connected to major employment centres, which compounds the difficulties faced by residents in these areas.

“Not only do they lack local job opportunities, but travelling elsewhere for work is also relatively difficult.”

He said the government needed a clear definition of a coastal community and should make more effort to address their economic problems.

Policymakers overlooked some poor performers because they were in the south east and so formed islands of deprivation in generally affluent areas, Corfe added.

Issues in coastal communities rose to prominence with a report from the communities and local government select committee in 2007, when MPs took the unusual step of objecting that the government’s response had been complacent and pressed for further action.

The committee said coastal communities tended to be at an economic disadvantage as the sea reduced the size of their economic hinterland compared with inland towns.

They were also likely to have high proportions of retired people, an exodus of younger people and to be geographically remote from population centres.

Following this report, the Labour government created the Sea Change Fund to regenerate coastal towns, which was succeeded under the Coalition by the Coastal Communities Fund.

Coastal communities minister Jake Berry said yesterday there will be a fifth round of funding for this in 2019-21, to provide at least £40m of assistance.

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