South West seaside resorts among most deprived parts of country
Seaside resorts in the South West are among the most deprived in the country, laying bare the challenges faced as holidaymakers begin their journeys home.
The Government today unveils a fresh round of cash to reverse "decline and neglect", with many suffering coastal communities hoping for a lifeline.
The Office for National Statistics looked at England's 57 largest seaside resorts by resident population, including only those of at least 15,000.
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Three jewels in the South West's tourism crown – Weymouth in Dorset, Weston-super-Mare in Somerset and Paignton in Devon –- came out more deprived than the rest of England.
There was good news for other seaside towns – chiefly those less dependant on the tourist pound – with Teignmouth and Exmouth in Devon, Burnham-on-Sea and Clevedon in Somerset, and Poole and Christchurch in Dorset scoring above the national average.
Skegness and Ingoldmells, home to Billy Butlin's first holiday camp in 1936, is the most deprived resort.
The ONS report was based on an assessment of key measures of deprivation such as high unemployment, low incomes, poor health and more crime.
A report by the right-leaning Centre for Social Justice recently argued that once-thriving resorts have become heavily populated by welfare claimants and patients leaving the care system, while also being undermined by cheap foreign travel.
But West Country coastal communities are attempting revival and diversification. Newquay is hoping to create 2,500 jobs at the airport's "aerohub", a Government-sanctioned enterprise zone, which has already attracted big-name firms including helicopter giant AgustaWestland.
Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "There's no doubt that the trend for holidaying abroad rather than at home has presented a challenge for many seaside towns, but the welcome recent resurgence of 'staycations' has brought a much-needed boost to the tourism sector."
Meanwhile, the Government today announces the third round of its Coastal Communities Fund, awarding £22 million to projects creating jobs, after extending the programme to 2016.
The first round included a £1.47 million grant to the Swanage Railway in Dorset. Successful bids in round two will be announced in October.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "This Government is committed to supporting our seaside towns and we know the Coastal Communities Fund is really making a difference so I'm delighted to announce we are increasing the funding."