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Britain’s Coastal Communities Amongst Countries Worst Performing Areas

Britain’s coastal communities are among the worst ranked parts of the country across a range of economic and social indicators, including earnings, employment, health and education – and the economic gap between coastal and non-coastal communities has grown.

New analysis of economic and social data at a local authority level by the Social Market Foundation think tank finds that:

  • five of the ten local authorities in Great Britain with the lowest average employee pay are in coastal communities – Torbay, North Devon, Gwynedd, Hastings and Torridge.
  • last year, average employee pay was about £3,600 per annum lower in coastal communities than in other parts of Great Britain.
  • five of the 10 local authorities in Great Britain with the highest unemployment rate were coastal communities, for the three months to March 2017 – Hartlepool, North Ayrshire, Torridge, Hastings, South Tyneside and Sunderland.
  • ten of the twenty local authorities in England & Wales with the highest proportion of individuals in poor health are coastal communities – Neath Port Talbot, Blackpool, Bridgend, Sunderland, Barrow-in-Furness, Carmarthenshire, East Lindsey, South Tyneside, County Durham and Hartlepool.
  • the two local authorities in England & Wales with the smallest proportion of 16+ population holding level 4 and above qualifications (such as higher apprenticeships and degrees) are Great Yarmouth and Castle Point – both coastal communities.
  • in 1997, economic output (GVA) per capita was 23% lower in Great Britain’s coastal communities, compared with non-coastal communities. By 2015 this gap had widened to 26%.

For this analysis, the SMF defined a coastal community as a local authority area with a coastal border. There is currently no official definition of a ‘coastal community’.

The report’s author, SMF chief economist Scott Corfe said:

“The economies of many coastal towns have performed poorly relative to the rest of the country, with a lack of well-paid job opportunities for people in these areas.

“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 which 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.”

“Particularly in the South East, some coastal communities are pockets of significant deprivation surrounded by affluence – meaning their problems are often overlooked by policymakers.”

Key findings

The economic gap between coastal and non-coastal communities has widened over time. In Great Britain, economic output (GVA) per capita was 23% lower in coastal communities, compared with non-coastal communities, in 1997. By 2015 this gap had widened to 26%. In 2015 (the latest year for which we have data), 10 of the bottom 20 local authorities in terms of economic output per head (GVA) were in coastal communities.

Reflecting this, low employee pay is pervasive across coastal communities. Among the 98 coastal local authorities in Great Britain, 85% had mean pay levels below the average across Britain in 2016. Last year, average employee gross pay was about £3,600 per annum lower in coastal communities than in other parts of Great Britain.

5 of the 10 local authorities in Great Britain with the lowest average employee pay are in coastal communities.

For the three months to March 2017, 5 of the top 10 local authorities in Great Britain with  the highest unemployment rate were coastal communities – Hartlepool (11.0%), North Ayrshire (10.8%), Copeland (9.6%), Torridge (9.4%), Hastings (9.3%) South Tyneside (9.1%)

Health problems are also more prevalent in coastal communities. Of the 20 local authorities in England & Wales with the highest proportion of individuals in poor health, 10 are in coastal communities.

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