Almost £2 billion a year is being spent on benefit payments to people of working age living in seaside towns, according to a report from the Centre for Social Justice think tank. The report is based on case studies of five towns – Rhyl, Margate, Clacton, Blackpool and Great Yarmouth.
- Of the twenty neighbourhoods in the UK with the highest levels of working-age people on out-of-work benefits, seven are in coastal towns that once attracted millions of holiday-makers.
- On key measures of poverty – defined in the report as school failure, teenage pregnancy, addiction, fatherlessness/lone parenting and worklessness – some resorts now have problems as severe as deprived inner-city areas. Of the ten wards in England and Wales with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, four are in seaside towns. Blackpool has the highest rate of children in care in the whole of England.
- Some councils in high-cost areas take advantage of cheap accommodation in seaside towns and use them to place vulnerable people, such as children, in care. This has caused some areas to become 'dumping grounds' for people with complex needs – intensifying pressure on schools, social workers and other services.
- Another common theme is high levels of houses in multiple occupation. With less demand for hotels and guesthouses, a large share of accommodation has been bought up by private landlords and converted into small flats and bedsits – this has attracted people living on very low incomes who rely on benefits.
- The report says far greater efforts are needed if the seaside towns are to recapture their former prosperity. It recommends a number of measures, including improving skills in the towns and devolving greater powers to local levels so they can invest in more pro-active services and take greater control.
Source: Alex Burghart, Harriet Crawford, Joseph Henson, Paul Langlois, Annette Pereira, Ross Reid, Ben Walker and Tom Wardle (with Toby Ovenden and Gabriel May), Turning the Tide: Social Justice in Five Seaside Towns, Centre for Social Justice
Links: Report | CSJ press release | BBC report | Inside Housing report | Public Finance report | Telegraph report