Coastal towns in cycle of poverty, says think tank

Dreamland site in Margate, Kent Thanet council is working on plans to regenerate Dreamland, a historic amusement park in Margate

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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 299.

    One problem is the inordinate amounts of money spent on London leaving very little to support anywhere else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    In Great Yarmouth there is an almost infinite amount of potential, the problem is getting the infrastructure in place to allow growth.
    There is a future in green technologies and local businesses are adapting to meet the needs of contemporary holiday makers.
    It’s not rocket science – INVEST IN THE FUTURE.
    End of rant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    @281/287. Apologies for agreeing but even as a railway enthusiast HS2 is plain daft in terms of need or benefit. I agree on renewable energy which will always need subsidising as in Germany & elsewhere. I may spend 'the rest' on fixing our increasingly third world roads full of potholes/cracks & other dangers. This will cost over £10bn by conservative estimate but save lives & damage to vehicles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Yes Southend-on-Sea had the largest increase in house prices in the UK last year. There is clearly ways to deal with it.

  • Comment number 295.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    We must have two sorts of seasides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Most of these seaside towns only exist because of historical UK local tourism over the last 150 years or so. Without that they'll naturally revert to what they were before, small ports or fishing towns that can only support a limited population. The decline is painful to see but inevitable- a bit like Detroit on a smaller scale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    As a comfortable but not wealthy individual, I condemn the criticism aimed at anyone here who has 'genuinely' & legally made their way up the ladder through their own efforts. Conversely, don't slip into selfish condemnation of those who now despair of the same vision. We ALL now struggle with the right-wing mentality that you should live to work, devoid of the incentive of working to live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    once again the government not putting money in to tourism or projects that would help the economy instead there giving there self s hands shakes and big pay rises and saying to there self s what a good politician I am looking after the party's interests not the people. so Mr clegg Mr Cameron keep persecuting the poor for your mistakes soon there wont be any more money left then what.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Declining seaside towns are not attracting new businesses or actively helping the private sector create jobs. Govt needs to focus more effort on removing barriers & providing the right incentives that encourage companies to create new jobs & grow the economy. Unemployment for the under 25s & over 50s is far too high and yet new arrivals are still flooding into the UK - total madness!

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.


    Thanks for this Editors' Pick 'explanation' of seaside decline, as if of seemingly inevitable genteel atrophy

    Some contributions, on the topic in the article, "severe social breakdown", have been referred & judged "off topic"

    It is an inconvenient fact that had more energy been given to society, rather than to competition, there are those amongst us who might have made a better Britain

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    I live in a town where local letting agents are actively working with London boroughs to relocate low income families and benefit claimants here....what chance has the place got? My neighbour relocated to London 2 yrs ago (he works obviously) and he couldn't sell his unemployed family with two kids (3rd clearly on the way) live there now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.


    I totally agree, I have a rather silly idea, let's not invest in HS2 but spend that money on investment in renewable energy and make seaside towns the manufacturing hub. As renewable energy is the future it makes perfect sense to me that we should be world leaders. Give the unemployed real purpose by skilling them up to do this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    I recently visited Ramsgate I was appalled at the decline. Charity shops everywhere. Worse the local council had systematically cut down hedgerows that used to house wrens etc and built ugly apartments with no trees etc. I was told they tried to bulldozer the iconic King George V park with its stable colony of parakeets, so they could build apartments, luckily they were stopped this time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    @278.I had nothing to do with your posts being removed. I believe in free speech and especially those you do not agree with. It's more important to defend an opponent's views than your own. I am also opposed to HYS moderation.Sorry it wasn't me. By the by. My ego is small. However, I'm terrified of failure as I was born into relative poverty and at 77 still work running my investments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    Transport links to these towns make them poor: people will live in low-cost towns if they can travel to work. But with the idiocy of rail privatisation & poor road links, it's not an option, so these & many other coastal towns don't stand a chance.
    Businesses also won't set up there, because you need to be able to get people and materials in & out.
    Labour needs to grab this issue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    The COUNCILS in these Towns need to GET responsible -which Political Party runs them ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    I see this "think tank" - stupid name for a stupid type of business - was set up by IDS.

    That explains why they have failed to point out that much of the poverty and decline in the UK can be traced back to IDS and his cronies who are continuing the good work of their predecessors in destroying the UK.

    What I can't understand, though, is - why do they do this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Living and working in Rhyl is hard, over the years it has declined, decent shops closing and replaced with pound shops or left empty. Working in welfare to work I see why so many people are frustrated here, but people need to change their mentality and money needs to be invested into the town to help give people a boost instead of writing the town off at every given oppourtunity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Thanet council has a great deal to answer for after allowing the out of town shopping centre of Westwood Cross. It ripped the heart out of Margate and Ramsgate at a time when they they were just about surviving. Also it's no good talking about reviving the town centres when the locals have no money due to high unemployment. The Mary Portas programme on TV was a joke-she had done no research.


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