Communities and Local Government Committee: Press Notice

Session 2006-07 7 March 2007

Session 2006-07 7 March 2007


** Not to be published in full, or in part, in any form before 00.01am on Wednesday 7 March 2007 **



Seaside Towns Report Launched In Scarborough

The Government is failing to meet the needs of coastal communities. This is the conclusion of the Communities and Local Government Committee's report, Coastal Towns, into the state of England's seaside communities, published today.

Although the Committee rejects a "one size fits all" approach recognising the economic and social diversity of these communities the MPs say there needs to be greater Government understanding and appreciation of the issues faced by communities by the sea.

The Committee identifies a number of characteristics shared by many towns on the coast which it says require specific support from Government. These include: their physical isolation, deprivation levels, the inward migration of older people, high levels of transience, the outward migration of young people, housing shortages and poorly managed housing, imbalances in the coastal economy, and the environmental challenge of coastal erosion and flooding risk.

The Committee is particularly disappointed by the un-coordinated approach by Government to these issues. It found little evidence of cross-departmental liaison on coastal towns despite the common challenges that they face and calls for a more joined up approach. The impact of national policy on coastal towns also needs to be better appreciated. The Committee calls for a permanent cross-departmental working group on coastal towns led by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The Committee is particularly concerned about the high numbers of vulnerable children placed in some seaside towns by other local authorities, particularly by London boroughs. It is often not in the best interests of the child to be placed far away from their home and family.

Chair of the Committee, Dr Phyllis Starkey MP said: "Local authorities that place children away from their home need to take full responsibility for that child's welfare and ensure that they provide full financial compensation to the receiving local authority for placements."

Tourism still has an important part to play for many coastal towns, the Committee concludes. It would like to see more done by the Government to promote visits to the English seaside and to consider introducing a national coastal tourism strategy, along similar lines to that recently introduced in Wales.

During its inquiry, the Committee uncovered official figures showing that in Great Britain there has been a 2.2 per cent increase in the number claiming incapacity benefit, special disability allowance or income support for disability claims since 1997 but that "there has been a 12.3 per cent rise in the number of claimants in coastal towns" over the same period. The Committee says it is unacceptable that the Government did not draw attention to these statistics, nor leave this impression in its original evidence, as this appears to be a significant national trend. The Committee calls on the Government to investigate this trend with a view to addressing its causes.

The Committee was also shocked by the lack of awareness the Department of Work and Pensions appeared to have about the significant levels of seasonal work found in many coastal towns which is more than double that of other areas.

The lack of affordable housing in many coastal communities is another concern the Committee highlights. It found this is fuelled by inward migration to these areas and second homes.

The Committee also draws attention to the high numbers of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) found in many coastal towns. The Committee calls for the Government to encourage local authorities to make full and effective use of their existing licensing and planning powers to manage HMOs.

Commenting further on the report, Chair of the Committee Dr Phyllis Starkey MP said: "We were disappointed to find that the Government has conducted no research into the situation of coastal towns in recent years, nor did we receive any evidence demonstrating that there was any action or liaison between departments specifically on coastal towns."

"If the needs of coastal towns are to be met then Government departments must develop an understanding of the particular issues facing these communities and work together to address the broad range of shared challenges they face."


Note to Editors:

The Communities and Local Government Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Department for Communities and Local Government and its associated bodies. The Committee launched an inquiry to examine Government policy affecting coastal towns. During the course of the inquiry extensive oral and written evidence on the situation of coastal towns was received.

For further information about this inquiry, please see:

The Chair of the Committee, Dr Starkey is launching the Committee's report, Coastal Towns, at the inaugural BURA (British Urban Regeneration Association) Seaside Conference in Scarborough today (March 7). Dr Starkey will be delivering a keynote speech at this event at 10:20am.

The current membership of the Communities and Local Government Committee is as follows: Dr Phyllis Starkey MP (Chair, Lab), Sir Paul Beresford MP (Con), Mr Clive Betts MP (Lab), John Cummings MP (Lab), Martin Horwood MP (Lib Dem), Mr Greg Hands MP (Con), Anne Main MP (Con), Mr Bill Olner MP (Lab), Dr John Pugh MP (Lib Dem), Emily Thornberry MP (Lab), David Wright MP (Lab).

For media enquiries or to arrange an interview with Dr Phyllis Starkey MP or Sir Paul Beresford MP please contact: Laura Kibby, Media Officer, Tel: 0207 219 0718/ Mobile: 07917488557, e-mail: [email protected]