We DO like to be beside the seaside! Clacton may be down, but it certainly isn't out

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Last week the town dubbed 'Poverty on Sea' was included in a list of deprived seaside resorts. But there are strong signs of a real community spirit

In the Jolly Roger restaurant at the end of Clacton Pier, Jane Smith has been serving cream teas and jacket potatoes to holidaymakers for 32 years. Between banter with customers, she says that, although the weather is good now, it won't make up for business lost to the spring rain. "Not after losing Easter and Whitsun – or the spring bank holiday as they call it now," she says. "Unless there's a miracle, that is, and they stop all the planes from Gatwick."

The loss of the summer trade is more of a blow to the hardy folk of Clacton than being dubbed "Poverty on Sea". It was named in a think-tank report highlighting how seaside towns such as Clacton, Great Yarmouth, Blackpool, Margate and Rhyl in North Wales had become dumping grounds for the unemployed and benefits-dependent.

The report, titled Turning the Tide, makes for grim reading. Clacton's unemployment rate for the population of 55,000 hovers at around 50 per cent. In the central Pier ward, home to many of the town's tourist attractions and formerly its economic dynamo, the rate is 54 per cent – the fifth highest in the country. At the last count, the local authority recorded only 501 job vacancies, while the median household income stands at £13,648, compared with £24,242 nationally.

Many say the situation is compounded by London councils shipping out their problem residents – an issue more acute since the Government introduced the benefits cap, which has begun to price families out of the capital. As one passage in the report puts it, towns such as Clacton have become "veritable dumping grounds for groups such as care-leavers, people with substance abuse problems, those with mental health issues and ex-offenders, for whom placing authorities can easily find low-cost accommodation".

The council leader, Peter Halliday, says that while evidence is still anecdotal, in one month, nine families moved here from Enfield alone – one of four London test boroughs in which the cap was introduced three months early this April. "They came with a payment of £6,000 and were told to move down to Tendring and we'll look after them," he says. "That much money can last you a decent amount of time down here."

Clacton’s beach still draws the crowds Clacton’s beach still draws the crowds  

A short distance from the pier is Jaywick. Here, a small outcrop of pebble-dashed and clapboard beach huts built in the 1930s as temporary chalets cling stubbornly to the shoreline. The sea view that originally sold this "garden village" to Londoners arriving by steamboat at the end of Clacton Pier has since been blocked by a thick concrete sea defence wall. A flood in 1954 killed 37 people. Since then, by some residents' reckoning, the local authority has either tried to sweep the area under the carpet or wipe it off the map for good.

Tendring was recently identified as the most deprived ward in England, and residents have few good words for the local council, which has been blamed for most problems. At the Jaywick Resource Centre, bingo club is finishing up, and the elderly ladies are making way for the line dancers. Walls are decorated with photographs of Jaywick in its heyday, collected by the local history group. Dot's kiosk, the market and the Mermaid bar are all now boarded up. The roads, which speak of unrealised utopia with such names as Sea Shell Way, remain unpaved and potholed. But over the sea defence wall, the beach is still there.

"It used to be better sand in the old days – that soft, smooth sand," says Jacky Steers, a resident since 1986, who works at the centre. With the beach now punctuated with a variety of grasses, planted to save it from being washed away, residents proudly boast it can still give any beach in the south a run for its money.

"We've had rumours they'd build a marina down here. Then there was talk there was going to be a pier – and then they decided they needed a master plan," says Ms Steers. "In the paper, it always claims we had this much and that much money spent on it. But if you look back over the years, it's all just gone on consultants.

There is still a real sense of community in Jaywick There is still a real sense of community in Jaywick  

"Really, the issue is visual," she continues, looking over the wall to a single family who have the beach to themselves as the sun sets. She's right: beneath the usual signs of modern poverty there's a community here that has withstood a great deal, and ended up, for it all, with a social fabric that is well worn but all the stronger for it. Clacton may be down, but it certainly isn't out.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her