Coastal towns in cycle of poverty, says think tank

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Declining seaside towns in parts of the UK are stuck in a cycle of poverty, a think tank has warned.

The Centre for Social Justice - set up by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith - said some towns were suffering "severe social breakdown".

They were also becoming "dumping grounds" for vulnerable people such as children in care and ex-offenders.

This has been "further depressing the desirability of such areas and so perpetuating the cycle", it said.

The CSJ report, entitled Turning the Tide, examined conditions in five coastal towns in England and Wales - Rhyl in north Wales, Margate in Kent, Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, Blackpool in Lancashire and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.

Whilst each town has its own particular problems, it said "a recurring theme had been that of poverty attracting poverty".

Many seaside towns' economies were badly affected by the advent of cheaper foreign travel in the 1970s, it said. This led in turn to a depleted economy, low skills base and "dangerously high levels of family breakdown".

The total working-age benefits bill for the five towns is almost £2bn, it says - and the human cost of their high unemployment rates is "more considerable still".


The think tank said on key measures of poverty - school failure, teenage pregnancy, fatherlessness and lone parenting, and worklessness - some resorts now had problems as severe as deprived inner-city areas.

Of the 10 wards in England and Wales with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, four were seaside towns.

In one part of Rhyl, two-thirds of working-age people were dependent on out-of-work benefits. Meanwhile 41% of adults in Clacton-on-Sea had no qualifications - almost double the average for England and Wales.

Blackpool local authority had the highest rate of children in care in the whole of England - 150 per 10,000 population - far exceeding the English average of 59, it said.

The CSJ said much of the accommodation in the five towns had been acquired by private landlords and converted into "extremely cheap" housing, attracting people living on low incomes and welfare claimants, as well as less economically-active people such as single-parent families and pensioners.


On a recent evening in Blackpool, among the young drinkers, 37 year-old Jodie sat begging, trying to collect enough money to avoid a night in the local public toilets, known locally as the 20p Hilton.

A mile away, as the clock struck midnight, a group of people approached a cashpoint machine, hoping their unemployment benefit had just been paid in. Some £40 of it would go on weed, one man said.

Nobody in the group was actually originally from Blackpool, but they had arrived over the years.

The local council believe an abundance of cheap accommodation is a magnet, as old faded guest houses are turned into bedsits.

They are trying to contain the situation by forcing landlords to get licences.

But councils in London and the Midlands have approached Blackpool landlords looking to find cheap accommodation for some of their residents - a poor town, attracting poor people.

It also found councils in high-cost areas were taking advantage of cheap accommodation in seaside towns by using them to house vulnerable people.

As a result, coastal towns were become "veritable dumping grounds for groups such as care leavers, people with substance abuse problems, those with mental health issues and ex-offenders", it said.

The influx of vulnerable people being re-housed was "further depressing the desirability of such areas and so perpetuating the cycle", the think tank argued.

Such people had "complex needs" and tended to intensify the "pressure on schools, social workers and other services", CSJ policy director Alex Burghart said.

CSJ director Christian Guy said living standards in some of the UK's best-known coastal towns had declined "beyond recognition" and locals were now "bearing the brunt of severe levels of social breakdown".

"We have found inspiring local people, services and charities working hard to turn things around, but they are struggling to do this alone.

"Some of these areas have been left behind. We must ramp up efforts to revive Britain's coastal towns, not just for visitors but for the people who live there," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    @272. Agreement! I'm actually neither R nor L having a spectrum of 'political' views. I loathe privilege and right by birth believing in equal opportunity even if we develop differently thereafter. I also believe our most fundamental problem is poor educational & training achievement. This requires huge long term investment. Yes, I believe in self help & reward but some need help. I admire Germany

  • Comment number 278.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    the traditional B&B is dead in the water. The owners have gone out of business. Large properties that can be turned into homes of multiple occupancy have come available at very low prices. These rooms have been filled with befeit claimants, often the young and usuallu with children. Minimal maintenance means these properties become slums. Big problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    274. MassMediocrity

    The point stands. The cetralisation of power = the centralisation of the countries wealth. All economic decision are made to benefit the S.E. of England to the detriment of the other regions needs. You cant deny this nor excuse it by saying "but we have poor people too". Every region has specific economic needs that arent served by Westminster or a centralised government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Inconvenient facts @262
    Towards diagnosis & treatment of "severe social breakdown", might be right to put "Cambridge first & related achievements" ahead of others, but you succeed only in underlining case for social justice, enfranchisement of all as equal citizens. Had you not been tempted toward safety & comfort in the lower realms, you might have saved the whole country, not just the sea-side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    A pint of whatever you're drinking. I live in the SE and i assure you unless you started life as a toff, the pay down here is just as crappy as anywhere else. If you think you're going to cross over into Surrey and all of a sudden be surrounded by jags and fat cats bleeding others dry, then you are very mistaken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    @259. I didn't suggest any such thing. It's in your mind. Bournemouth is simply a nice town with a high proportion of retired people - many comfortably off. Simple fact. Yes, it has drug & drink problems plus a high incidence of teenage pregnancy but remains better than many towns I know. Hardly hypocritical to state an observation shared by others. I don't vote as it changes nothing.

  • Comment number 272.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Billions have been spent on regional development funds with little benefit. What needs to be done is selective investment for instance Green manufacturing parks close to ports. Our government investing for the future by buying british. Help to solar panel poor pensioners households with manufacturing in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    It's not rocket science. The average seaside town has an ageing population with little disposable income. Local economy is founded on seasonal tourism which can't compete with Spain, Florida etc. for weather or cost. High unemployment especially in the winter so no job prospects for the young. Local councils historically concentrated on attracting more tourists and not industry to their towns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.


    ..Brighton .... is one of the most sort after locations hence the amount of celebrities who now live there. Further down the cost Hastings has just stood still. Its the attitude of the people and local councils..."

    Brighton has a motorway to London, Hastings has potential but no motorway. Margate has less potential & is further from London. It's central government, not local.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    242. JasonEssex
    At the moment, London and the SE are the only region which contributes positively to the exchequer.

    And the only thing that has been propping up London and the S.E. has been the plunder of one regions reserves of oil!

    Get over yourself mate, every region of the UK would be far better off if it wasnt for the S.E of England bleeding the rest of us dry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    This isn't about London versus the rest of the country. It's about towns that have lost their purpose other than as a home to poor hangers-on and incomers too ill-equipped to stand on their own feet.

    They won't be saved by nostalgia, charities or even jobs - if residents lack the skills. The only solution is education followed by enlightened investment - but it will take at least a generation.

  • Comment number 266.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    Finding some really old animals buried in some rocks near your town seems to have kept Lyme Regis and Charmouth in Dorset going steady for the last hundred years. Why don' t the residents of Rhyl bury Bruce Forsyth then unearth him in 2-3 years time.

  • Comment number 264.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    238.nicknack1......i don't think bournemouth has suffered that much since i left in 2008. What are they doing differently?

    I believe it still attracts a lot of retired folks bringing lucrative pensions into the area & doesn't have quite the antiquated 'kiss-me-quick' tackiness of other resorts. Rightly or wrongly, this combination has helped to retain values generally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    @252. I'd put my Cambridge first and related achievements before yours. Anyway, insults aside I was making a non political point. Voting this way or that makes little difference to anything. Do you imagine the next Lab gov will fix everything? We will still have huge structural & social problems, the deficit, chronic education & skill shortages etc. I really do lament for everyone left or right..

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    I grew up in Poole Bournemouth and it is a pale shadow of what it once was

    I could not believe how dead it had become. It is only the high cost of housing that is stopping it becoming the next social dumping ground.

    There are a lot of Hotels that are running down and will welcome the business

  • Comment number 260.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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