New report highlights need for fairer funding for 'communities on the edge' along Lincolnshire coast
Lower than average incomes, poor access to health and care services, poor quality and unaffordable housing and lack of connectivity are the grim realities outlined in the report, compiled for Coastal Communities Alliance and partners.
These continue in spite of current Levelling Up and Town Fund initiatives that are pumping millions of pounds into the coastal economy, says Coun Colin Davie, executive councillor for economy at Lincolnshire County Council.
The report comes in a year that has been names ‘Year of the Coast’ to showcase events, products and volunteer beach clean ups to attract a new generation of coast-goers.
Coun Davie says: “The Lincolnshire coast is a fabulous place to live and it should be no surprise that many people choose to live and work here and enjoy fulfilling lives. The challenges our coastal areas face are well documented, most recently in the annual report from our director of public health. Lower than average incomes, poor access to health and care services, poor quality and unaffordable housing and lack of connectivity, remain key issues.
“This report not only reinforces those challenges, but also the need for fairer funding for counties like ours. We have long campaigned for this in Lincolnshire, where we have a large coastline but also many rural communities, and delivering public services can be difficult and expensive. A formula for allocating government funding that reflects this in the long-term, is essential to enable future services to be good quality and sustainable.
“I firmly believe that our coastal area is full of potential. I welcome the opportunities presented for growth and prosperity, and we are working hard to support businesses with the infrastructure they need, and to help them benefit from growing areas such as green tourism and renewable energy.”
Pat Doody, Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said:
“While we have progressed and seen some fantastic developments on the Greater Lincolnshire coast over the last decade, we welcome the recommendations in this illuminating report for a fundamental governmental step change in the strategic approach to the Levelling Up of our coastal communities, bringing long-term funding commitments in order to achieve equal opportunity and advantage to enable these unique destinations to flourish economically.”
The research for the report was funded by the Coastal Communities Alliance, Coastal Partners, Coastal Partnerships Network, and regional councils.
It states: “Not all coastal areas are the same and the challenges they face are varied, but analysis of government’s chosen metrics shows the need for Levelling Up in England’s coastal communities.
"Household income is almost £3,000 lower than in non-coastal areas, while nearly one in five coastal jobs are below the living wage – a greater
proportion than England over all. Productivity is lower, health outcomes are poorer, and digital and physical connectivity are lagging behind the rest of the country.
"All of these factors stifle growth and limit the potential of coastal communities.”
Employment metrics show gap between coastal and rest of the country, the report states: “On average, more children live in workless households in coastal areas than England as a whole, and the gap in the employment rate between residents with a disability and those without is two percentage points greater in coastal areas than all of England.
“Mission three of Levelling Up aims to improve public transport connectivity, with travel time to the nearest large employment centre being one of the measures.
"Difficulty in accessing jobs for those unable to drive, particularly in areas with a poor or no public transport, can contribute to the lack of labour force participation, along with a lack of digital connectivity.”
The proportion of pupils achieving GCSE level qualifications in English and mathematics by age nineteen is two percentage points lower in coastal areas than non-coastal areas.
The report says: “For the academic year 2021 to 2022, attainment 8 scores (the metric used for pupils finishing key stage four) of 14-16 year olds
averages 47 points in coastal areas, as opposed to 49 points in non-coastal areas.
"Coastal school students are more likely to be persistently absent (defined as being absent from more than ten per cent of lessons).”
Even the rise in staycations during the pandemic has seen new challenges. The report states: “While this was incredibly welcome for tourism businesses, it added additional strain to an already stretched housing market.
"Second homes and holiday lets can reduce the availability of properties and increase house prices in the most popular locations, impacting on the ability of buyers to secure their first home.
"With one of the Levelling Up aims being to increase home ownership, tracking the proportion of homes used for holiday accommodation would be beneficial.“Empty homes are also contributing to the problem, and around 126,000 dwellings on the coast were deemed empty in 2021.
"With 278,000 households on local authority housing waitlists in coastal communities, reducing the number of empty homes could help secure rental properties for those in need.”
One theme which consistently arose during the research was that developing the coast depends on the sustainability of tourism year round.
The report highlights collaboration between businesses and Destination Management Organisations as one of the keys to this – interestingly as coastal businesses voted to end the Visit Lincs Coast (BID) last year.
It states: "Extending the season would allow for more year-round jobs, wage growth and the creation of long-term careers.”
With a visitor economy contributing £17 billion to the economy pre-covid, the report concludes: “Maximising opportunities such as the new England Coast Path National Trail and converting day visitors to overnight stays provide further opportunities to grow the visitor economy and reduce the impact of visitors on the local environment.
"The growth in environmental awareness and green values also offer the opportunity for an increase in ecotourism and sustainable wildlife tourism.”