UK resorts 'dumping ground' for poor

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Many British seaside towns are now just dumping grounds for the poor and desperate. That's the verdict from think-tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). It claims Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, Margate and Rhyl have poverty levels closer to those of run-down inner cities.

And the cost to the taxpayer is startling - £2bn plus in benefits alone.

Turning the tide

The CSJ claims the proportion of people on out-of-work benefits in the five towns it looked at - Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, Margate, Rhyl and Margate - ranges from 19% to 25%. Compare that with a national 11.5% unemployment figure for England, Scotland and Wales. In Great Yarmouth, 33% of people have no qualifications, it says.

"In every town we visited," says the CSJ, "local people attested to families experiencing two, three or even four generations of worklessness. This entrenched unemployment has drained aspiration. Local employers have told us of the trouble they have finding local people with the skills or will to take up jobs, jobs that are then often filled by economic migrants.

Spade, bucket, benefits

Housing benefit for the unemployed – harder to calculate for these small areas – is likely to be over £220 million a year says the CSJ, making the total bill in excess of £365 million. The out-of-work benefits bill for all principal seaside towns is about £750 million a year, and the housing benefit bill is likely to be in the region of £1.18 billion – a total of £1.93 billion.

Property prices - a five-bedroom terrace house can be had for £50,000 in Blackpool, claims the CSJ - have dived in many of these towns. Many properties are chopped up into multiple occupation bedsits. A combination of poor tenants and absentee landlords has meant a further decline in both property values, plus the character of the community.

Glory days gone

"Cheap property has meant that some councils have used seaside towns to house vulnerable groups such as children in care and ex-offenders," adds the CSJ. "Many parts of these towns have become dumping grounds, further depressing the desirability of such areas and so perpetuating the cycle."

It's a long way from the glory days of some coastal towns. In the early 19th century Margate was one of the most fashionable resorts in the UK. Now it's more commonly known for child poverty, drug addiction and educational failure, despite the opening of its new Turner Gallery.