100. No one Government department has specific responsibility
for coastal towns and responsibility for policy areas affecting
coastal towns is shared across a number of Government departments.
101. The Department for Trade and Industry has policy
responsibility for the RDAs. RDAs are required to report on their
inward investment levels and business growth levels, including
disaggregating their output data on a rural/urban basis. The
RDAs do not currently disaggregate their data by coastal towns.
We requested that this be done but were told that it was not
possible as the information was not available from RDA Management
Without data collated at a regional or national level on coastal
towns, an evaluation of the economic situation and the adoption
of appropriate policy responses is difficult, as is any evaluation
of the effectiveness of RDAs in meeting the needs of coastal towns.
The Minister for Industry and the Regions told us that her Department
was currently reviewing the evaluation and monitoring data on
the performance of RDAs. She agreed that at present it was not
possible to determine the performance of RDAs in meeting the needs
of coastal towns and that in her view the department did not monitor
coastal towns in sufficient detail.
Given that the Government does not collate or analyse data
on the investment levels and business growth in coastal towns
it is difficult to see the basis for any confidence that coastal
RDAs are effectively meeting the economic needs of the coastal
towns in their respective regions. We note that currently RDAs
disaggregate their output data on a rural/urban basis. We urge
the Government to require RDAs to disaggregate their data in relation
to coastal areas in their region. This would enable the Government
to evaluate the effectiveness of RDAs in developing the economies
of coastal towns within their regions.
102. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport
(DCMS) has policy responsibility for tourism. There are a large
number of other bodies and partnerships with delegated responsibility
for tourism. VisitBritain is the national tourism agency with
responsibility for advising Government and the promotion of Britain
worldwide. The RDAs have a strategic responsibility for tourism
within their regions. BRADA stated that there is "a multitude
of different regional and sub regional structures" for tourism,
including 110 Destination Management Organisations nationally
with responsibility for promoting their areas.
It argued that the structures are confusing and asserted that
"if tourism interests find it confusing what hope [is there]
for the [Government] and others trying to deliver broader policies
with tourism implications".
The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers & Attractions
argued that at present there "is insufficient co-ordination
in the development of many of the tourist destinations that we
have around the UK, particularly on the coast" and that this
"is causing some of the difficulties they are facing".
VisitBritain agreed that there are "a lot of bodies that
are involved that are not necessarily networked in the way that
they should be, and one of the challenges for Partners for England
is to network them successfully."
The Minister for State for Sport, Rt Hon. Richard Caborn MP, agreed,
"there are far too many bodies [
] and that really needs
to be streamlined".
Fragmentation within the tourism support sector is a national
issue and not specific to coastal towns. Coastal towns, as well
as other tourist areas, would benefit from a more coherent and
streamlined national structure.
103. Much of our evidence suggests insufficient appreciation
on the part of Government of the experiences and needs of coastal
towns. BURA stated
that the Government had no understanding of the ways in which
national policies on HMOs or the benefits system, for instance,
impacted on coastal towns specifically.
The Government recognises that there is a range of common
characteristics found in many coastal towns but has admitted that
in recent years it has not undertaken any large scale research
on the problems facing coastal towns.
Levels of understanding about the needs of coastal towns also
appear to vary between Government departments. As discussed previously,
the Department for Work and Pensions appeared to have little awareness
of the continuing levels of seasonality of employment within coastal
towns and any policy implications resulting from this (see para
42). In contrast, the Minister for Industry and the Regions accepted
that seasonal employment was a feature of coastal towns.
The Minister for Local Government stated that, in his view,
further research on the impact of policy would help the Government
to understand fully the needs of coastal towns and inform policy-making.
104. The Government told us it did not have a standard
definition of coastal towns.
This is reflected in the evidence provided from various Government
departments. The DCLG's evidence drew upon data from a sample
group of 30 coastal towns, while the views expressed by the DWP
appear to be based on evidence from 17 selected coastal towns.
Such variations have implications for policy development. It
is difficult to see how a unified, Government-wide understanding
of coastal towns can be developed without a common evidence base.
The Seaside Economy report states "Seaside towns are
the least understood of Britain's 'problem' areas".
We concur with this view and believe the Government does not
sufficiently appreciate the needs of coastal towns.
105. A number of witnesses stated that they were
unable to comment on the effectiveness of Government or specific
departments, due to their lack of awareness of any Governmental
action taken specifically on coastal towns.
Where witnesses were able to comment on cross-departmental Government
liaison, they often argued that a more joined-up approach was
needed. The East
Kent Partnership, for instance, told us that the onus is currently
on local authorities to pursue different Government departments
to support sustainable development strategies and projects, rather
than one coherent Government approach to supporting local regeneration
and that, this can be a barrier to successful regeneration.
106. There is, nevertheless, some evidence which
suggests that in a few specific policy areas that affect coastal
towns, there is cross-departmental liaison. For example, the
Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment and
Food and Rural Affairs, Barry Gardiner MP told us that DEFRA has
liaised closely with the DCLG on the development of recent policy
planning statements and on rural housing issues.
The DCMS, for example, has also worked with the DCLG to produce
good practice planning guidance for tourism.
All Government policies can be seen to affect the lives of residents
in coastal towns in some way. Given this situation, and that
generally cross-departmental liaison takes place on policies,
it is arguably easy to demonstrate that cross-departmental liaison
takes place on general policy areas that these affect coastal
towns. It is less easy to demonstrate that there is liaison on
a strategic level specifically on coastal towns.
107. The Rt Hon. Margaret Hodge MP explained that,
at a ministerial level, no regular discussions currently take
place on coastal towns specifically but she thought that it would
be a "good idea" if they did.
The DCLG did not provide any evidence of inter-departmental liaison
specifically on coastal towns but provided examples of specific
liaison on policy areas that affect coastal towns such as casino
policy and coastal flooding.
There is no evidence of any strategic interdepartmental co-operation
taking place specifically on coastal towns.
108. The Government has accepted that there are some
common features shared by many coastal towns and that they face
Many of these challenges cannot be addressed successfully without
inter-departmental liaison. Examples of issues that would benefit
from greater cross-departmental liaison include:
- Addressing the high levels
of deprivation in many coastal towns, through close liaison between
DCLG and DTI, RDAS;
- Improving the transport links to many coastal
towns, requiring the DCLG to work with the Department for Transport;
- Dealing with the policy implications of the high
elderly and vulnerable population found in many coastal towns
through joint working between DCLG and the Department of Health;
- Tackling the challenges of seasonality in coastal
towns through close liaison between DCLG and the DTI, and
- Reducing levels and concentrations of benefit
dependency in coastal towns through a joint approach between the
DCLG and the DWP.
109. The lack of cross-departmental liaison on
coastal towns is disappointing, indicating that there is a national
policy vacuum on coastal towns. Given the common characteristics
shared by many coastal towns and the cross-cutting nature of the
common issues facing them, cross-departmental joint working must
be put in place. This would be facilitated by greater understanding
and transparency over the situation of coastal towns. The Government
should establish a permanent cross-departmental working group
on coastal towns led by the Department for Communities and Local
Government. Its role should include monitoring and promoting
cross-departmental understanding of the needs of coastal towns,
consideration of the effect of Government policy on coastal towns
and overview of any national initiatives for coastal towns.
A NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR COASTAL
110. The Lincolnshire Coastal Action Zone called
for a National Coastal Regeneration Strategy to address the needs
of coastal towns.
It called for this to include a number of national initiatives
such as: the establishment of a coastal enterprise zone; a housing-led
regeneration scheme; the re-location of public sector employment
to coastal areas and 'coastal proofing' of national policies.
It argued that such a national strategy was essential to address
effectively the common issues affecting coastal towns.
BURA also supported the principle of having a national strategy
for coastal towns, stressing the need for shared learning, although
it acknowledges some risk if the strategy were to be seen as imposed
by central Government BRADA commented that theoretically a single
national approach to coastal towns, including funding, sounded
desirable, yet was sceptical that this could be practically implemented.
Professor Fothergill stated that a "one-size-fits-all approach
is not necessarily appropriate" given the level of diversity
among coastal towns.
SEEDA argued that coastal towns were too diverse to have a meaningful
national strategy but that greater national recognition of the
common issues faced in coastal towns and appropriate interventions
in response would be welcome.
Our analysis of the evidence has demonstrated that coastal
towns are diverse but that many coastal towns do share some common
features, including deprivation. We are convinced that there
is a need for greater Governmental understanding and appreciation
of the needs of coastal towns. The variety of the challenges
and opportunities that exist for coastal towns, however, make
it difficult to conceive of a national strategy that would both
an effective tool for delivery and sufficiently localised to reflect
the diversity of conditions and needs in coastal towns and on
this basis we are not recommending the adoption of a national
strategy solely for coastal communities.
278 Ev 109 Back
Q 450 Back
Ev 97, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 97, HC 1023-II Back
Q 174 Back
Q 212 Back
Q 494 Back
See for example Ev 59, 62, HC 1023-II Back
Q 284 Back
Ev 166, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 65, HC 1023-II Back
Q 522 Back
Ev 166, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 175, HC 1023-II. See also Ev 92. Back
The Seaside Economy, p. 9 Back
Ev 8, 41, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 68, 99, 116, 137, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 44, HC 1023-II Back
Q 469 Back
Q 501 Back
Ev 67, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 168, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 166, HC 1023-II Back
Ev 116, HC 1023-II. See also Ev 53, HC 1023-II. Back
Ev 119, HC 1203-II Back
Ev 116, C 1023-II Back
Q 132 Back
Q 103 Back
Q 69 Back