Coastal communities suffering social deprivation says report

Coastal communities are lagging behind inland areas with some of the worst levels of economic and social deprivation in the country, a new report shows.
Seaside towns are are lagging behind inland areas. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty ImagesSeaside towns are are lagging behind inland areas. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Seaside towns are are lagging behind inland areas. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

North Ayrshire and Clackmannanshire, both classed as coastal areas, were in the top five, ranking third and fourth respectively in the ten local authorities in Great Britain with the highest unemployment rates for the 12 months to March 2017.

The Social Market Foundation’s (SMF) think-tank’s comparison of earnings, employment, health and education data identified “pockets of significant deprivation” in seaside towns and a widened gap between coastal communities and the rest of the country.

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Westminster has pledged to give £40 million to coastal areas across the country to boost employment and encourage tourism. However, researchers warned some communities were being “overlooked” by policymakers preoccupied with more affluent towns.

SMF analysis found 85 per cent of the country’s 98 coastal local authorities had pay levels below the national average for 2016, when employees in seaside communities were paid about £3,600 less.

North Ayrshire, East Lothian and Angus were second, seventh and tenth in the bottom ten coastal communities in terms of percentage growth in gross values added per capita between 1997 and 2015.

Scott Corfe, SMF’s chief economist and report author, said poor infrastructure was contributing to the growing disparity between seaside and inland towns.

“Many coastal communities are poorly connected to major employment centres in the UK, 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.

“Despite the evident social and economic problems these places face, there is currently no official definition of a ‘coastal community’. The government needs to do more to track – and address – economic problems in our coastal towns.

“Some coastal communities are pockets of significant deprivation surrounded by affluence – meaning their problems are often overlooked by policymakers.”

Councillor Alex Gallagher, cabinet member for economy at North Ayrshire Council, said budget cuts were undermining the council’s long-term improvement plans.

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“This council had been working very hard to address problems with an industrial growth policy but we’ve had effectively £20 million cut from our budget by the Holyrood and Westminster governments in the past two years.

“It’s very difficult to create positive situations under these circumstances.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to working with North Ayrshire Council and regional partners to unlock investment and achieve inclusive economic growth.

“That is why we have made significant investment in North Ayrshire over recent years. This investment includes more than £23m through the Irvine Bay Urban Regeneration Company and £4.7m through the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. In 2017-18 North Ayrshire Council will also receive £1.7m funding from the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund.”