Sunderland, South Shields and Hartlepool suffer worst from health and money troubles as coastal communities lag behind, report finds

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The UK's coastal communities are lagging behind inland areas with some of the worst levels of economic and social deprivation in the country, a new report shows.

Comparison of earnings, employment, health and education data in local authority areas identified "pockets of significant deprivation" in seaside towns and a widened gap between coastal communities and the rest of the country.

The Government has pledged to give £40million to coastal areas in a bid to boost employment and encourage tourism, however researchers warned some communities were being "overlooked" by policymakers preoccupied with more affluent towns.

Analysis by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank found that 85% of Great Britain's 98 coastal local authorities had pay levels below the national average for 2016, when employees in seaside communities were paid about £3,600 less.

The report commissioned by BBC Breakfast also found:

:: Hartlepool, South Tyneside and Sunderland together with North Ayrshire, Torridge and Hastings made up five of the 10 local authorities in Great Britain with the highest unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2017.

:: Sunderland, South Tyneside, County Durham and Hartlepool, Barrow-in-Furness, Carmarthenshire, East Lindsey, Neath Port Talbot, Blackpool and Bridgend, made up half of the 20 local authorities in England and Wales with the highest proportion of individuals in poor health.

:: Torbay, North Devon, Gwynedd, Hastings and Torridge made up five of the 10 local authorities in Great Britain with the lowest average employee pay.

:: Great Yarmouth and Castle Point accounted for the two local authorities in England and Wales with the smallest proportion of over-16-year-olds with level four and above qualifications - such as higher apprenticeships and degrees.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that in 1997 economic output per person was 23% lower in the country's coastal communities compared with non-coastal communities, while in 2015 the gap had widened to 26%.

Scott Corfe, SMF's chief economist and author of the report, said poor infrastructure was contributing to the growing disparity between seaside towns and their inland counterparts.

"Many coastal communities are poorly connected to major employment centres in the UK, which compounds the difficulties faced by residents in these areas. Not only do they lack local job opportunities, but travelling elsewhere for work is also relatively difficult.

"Despite the evident social and economic problems which these places face, there is currently no official definition of a 'coastal community'. The Government needs to do more to track - and address - economic problems in our coastal towns.

"Particularly in the South East, some coastal communities are pockets of significant deprivation surrounded by affluence - meaning their problems are often overlooked by policymakers."