Skip to main content

Coastal Towns

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 6 January 2015

[Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

I call John Pugh to speak on economic growth in coastal towns. After he has finished his speech, I will consider a limit of about four minutes per speaker. Ten Members have indicated that they wish to speak and, with interventions, that will probably eat up the time.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Main. I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) to this early opportunity to speak on her brief. She has made a most impressive start to her ministerial career, and I look forward to hearing what she has to say on the topic.

I have a long-standing interest in seaside resorts. Obviously, I represent Southport, which describes itself as a classic resort, but even before coming to the House I was involved, as a council leader, in the regeneration of the town. Developing by the sea is never an easy business. It is often controversial, because people have fixed ideas about what should happen, and it is often difficult. In my time, I have certainly experienced difficulties with developers, normally when they have gone bust halfway through schemes.

However, I am glad to say that for Southport, in the public realm, the process has been largely successful. We have had the benefit of objective 1 funding and Northwest Development Agency investment, and we had useful help from the Heritage Lottery Fund at various points. The pier was refurbished, the sea wall built and other developments made. We also had the advantage of an excellent chief executive at the time who provided good leadership.

When I came to this House, I naturally pressed for a spotlight to be put on the distinct problems of seaside resorts; now I do so on the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government. In the first instance, other Committee members resisted, thinking that the issue was not a high priority, but after a close vote on the forthcoming timetable I was supported by the then MP for Easington, John Cummings. Easington is not an obvious holiday destination—I think they dig more coal there than they do sand castles—but he supported my efforts. We had to call our report not “Seaside Towns”, which I would have preferred, but “Coastal Towns”.

We published that report during the last Parliament, and it was one of the most successful pieces of work done by that Select Committee. It was spoken about outside the House as well as inside. We had some difficulty persuading the Government of the time to take it seriously, but eventually they did, and they came up with the Sea Change fund to address specifically the issues of coastal towns.

The report started from the fair assumption that Britain has a lot of coast, and that it is economically important, but that many places have changed, and some have declined as leisure patterns have changed. We wanted to understand how individual resorts had responded. Our research at the time tended in many respects to work against the media stereotype of closed bed and breakfasts, hotels turned into benefit hostels, crumbling piers, high unemployment and the like. We found enormous variation in how coastal towns responded to their problems and challenges. Some clearly prospered; some declined; some were finding their way; some were marooned in time; some were happy to be marooned in time.

The key decider between successful and less successful resorts tended to be that those that were successful had a credible vision of their future and local leadership to deliver that vision. Those that were less successful kept with their problems. I was struck, for example, by the contrast between Margate, which at the time had different views about which way it should go, and Whitstable, which clearly wanted to make itself a gastronomic centre of Kent and was doing so successfully, offering a limited line but offering it very well.

None the less, there were some constant themes in most of our research. One was a lack of opportunity for young people; the exit of young people from tourist resorts is a common phenomenon. Another was poor connectivity: most resorts, necessarily, are at the end of a line or a road. There was an underfunding problem, and well-trained people were lacking in the leisure industry, which has often been a poor trainer. Changing expectations in the hotel and leisure industry did not help either. Also, wherever one went, many people wanted to retire to the coast, resulting in higher social services costs.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that places such as Minehead, where Bourne Leisure runs Butlins, are absolutely seminal? He is right that many Victorian seaside towns have changed completely overnight. Does he therefore agree that places such as Butlins need the support of the local community to keep them there and should be getting more support than they do at the moment?

I am not necessarily in favour of public subsidy for Butlins, but I understand what the hon. Gentleman is driving at. As change sets in and resorts and what they offer need to be modified, there is clear scope for public as well as private investment.

Recently, Sheffield Hallam university, which helped a lot with the Committee’s original research, has revisited the issue. It has done a health check and published a useful report, “Seaside Towns in the Age of Austerity”, which I recommend to Members. It makes interesting reading. It is not always what one thinks it might be; in many respects it is counter-intuitive. Sheffield Hallam found that there is not a great deal to support the general picture of gloom and decline. We must dispel that lazy and far too simple narrative. It considered Office for National Statistics employment data, which presumably came via the Department for Work and Pensions, and concluded that in seaside towns, employment is stable and growing a bit, that coastal towns are still a huge economic driver and that more people work in what we might call the seaside industries, in the wider sense, than in telecoms, advertising, the motor industry, radio, TV, railways and farming. Given how much those particular businesses are debated in this place, we probably do not talk sufficiently about the economic contribution made by coastal towns.

According to that research, the tripper and overnight market accounts for about £8 billion of money churning through the system. It is also true to say, as I am sure hon. Members will in their contributions, that many places on the coast have a limited dependence on the tripper and tourist market. Historically, they have been much more diverse than we often imagine. Cars were made in Southport at one stage, albeit a very long time ago. According to current figures, only 9% of employment in Brighton comes from seaside-based industries in leisure; in Southport, it is 11%; in Hastings, which is slightly more isolated than Brighton, it is 6%. Many resorts rely more on small businessmen, the care sector, retirees, the Government, the NHS or, massively in the case of Brighton and Bournemouth, students.

As my hon. Friend is talking about Sussex, perhaps he will allow me to intervene on that point. The figure is probably even smaller for Newhaven. Does he also recognise that one of the strengths of coastal communities around the country these days is how they are taking advantage of the investment being made in renewable energy off the coast? There has been a particular renaissance in jobs in Newhaven, where hundreds of jobs have been created through the renewable energy industries. Does he share my disquiet at the knee-jerk reactions against renewable energy, which damage job prospects in our coastal communities?

Before Mr Pugh responds to that, I ask that interventions be kept brief, particularly by those who wish to speak in the debate.

I agree with my right hon. Friend. He illustrates the point that people who work in coastal towns do not invariably work in the leisure sector. In other words, the vulnerability of resorts to changing leisure trends differs. It can be minimal in some cases and almost total in others, for example those resorts founded around caravan parks and the like. We must also bear in mind that many resorts, for example Bournemouth, are big conurbations in themselves. If we take Greater Bournemouth as an area, it has a population almost equivalent to that of Liverpool.

One thing surprised me in the Hallam research and I will say a little about it. What the research picked up was, in part, a north-south divide as far as resorts are concerned. Hallam says that at the moment the towns doing best off the back of tourism are largely, but not invariably, in the south, and those doing worst are largely in the north; I note that the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) is here in Westminster Hall today and Blackpool is an example that Hallam cited as one of the resorts that has been most hit by change in leisure trends. So there appears to be some sort of north-south divide—not exclusively, because obviously some areas along the Essex coast have taken a hit too. However, there is probably a different story to be told about those areas and their branding.

It is the upmarket south-coast resorts that are probably faring the best at the moment, and that links back to other areas of Government policy. One of the best ambitions of the coalition is to rebalance the economy, but as far as the north is concerned that has largely been seen as a matter of city deals. There is a logic in that, as cities are obviously crucial, but it can mean that resorts are overlooked. That is because cities in the north, as they develop, can compete in new ways against resorts. We have certainly seen that in my area. Manchester and Liverpool are now very active in the conference sector; in a sense, they have stolen business from places such as Blackpool.

Similarly, Liverpool’s retail expansion has undoubtedly damaged Southport’s more bespoke offer. Hotels and restaurants have massively proliferated in city centres so that their tourism, marketing and hotel offer has become qualitatively different from what it once was. City centres are now sold not as hubs of industry but as leisure destinations in their own right, and cities are better connected, and will be still better connected in the future, than many other areas. That is sometimes to the detriment of resorts. For example, electrification around Manchester may deprive me of a train from Southport to south Manchester. That would be excellent for people who want to get across the country, but it would not be helpful if they want to come to Southport for whatever reason.

That development would not be so bad were it not for the fact that in many parts of the north the key local decision makers do not focus on the coast at all. They tend to be very city-bound. For example, the Merseyside local enterprise partnership is dominated by Peel Holdings, which is legitimately concerned with developing its logistics business out of the docks and is not necessarily tasking itself, night and day, with encouraging tourism further up the coast. Also, the new money—if there is new money at all—tends come in via the cities and not through other routes. Although there is the coastal communities fund, and we are glad to have it, the per capita spend of that fund is a drop in the ocean compared with city deals.

It does not help that traditional council budgets and funding have been—let me put it this way—severely stressed. Many a council has done fairly obtuse things under those circumstances and cut first the activities that bring more people into their area, in order to concentrate on what they regard as their core business, which is often social services and the like; resorts have appreciable expenditure commitments in that regard. Alternatively, councils put up parking charges and drive people away. I have a particular crisis in my own constituency at the moment because the local council has decided to cut back on the iconic botanic gardens in Southport that bring people into the town, as a cheese-paring saving that will further damage the tourist industry.

In addition it does not help that, in an age of retail retrenchment, when chain stores are considering what to do about their retail offer, they look first at those towns that have a 180o catchment area and—whether or not they are populous—the chains use their models to decide that they will close branches in those towns first.

I am not here today just to complain, harass the Minister and ask for more and better things, although of course I will do all that. I accept that in an age of austerity coastal towns have to make their own weather; in Southport, we make our own weather and it is sunny all the time. However, we need to put Government coastal policy in the context of wider Government policy. We cannot ignore transport and the knock-on consequences of electrification, and think of coastal towns as a separate thing.

I take my hon. Friend’s point entirely. Surely, however, if anyone looks at the investment along the coastal line going through Dawlish, where we saw the tragedy of the line falling into the sea, they will see that that is exactly an example of where the Government have invested in a coastal community and committed to keeping a rail line going.

Yes—it probably took a disaster to engineer that level of investment, and we would not wish for that generally. However, I noticed that there is a good number of Members from northern resorts here in Westminster Hall and there is quite a clear issue at the moment with the Northern franchise and whether it will affect access to their resorts; I think that those Members will probably have something to say about that.

It is not just a question of infrastructure for resorts; it is also a question of infrastructure for ports, for example. I have Sharpness port in my constituency and I am campaigning for a bridge from that port to the Forest of Dean, to improve connectivity. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is the right direction of travel?

My fundamental point is that we need to connect up the various bits of Government policy. The Minister has to know what is happening, for example, to the marketing budgets of councils, given the constraints on council expenditure. There is a Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing—I think it is today—that is receiving evidence on this issue, and I am sure that the Minister will pick up on that as well. We cannot roll out city deals without recognising the fact that they lead to a concentration of power, to some extent, away from resorts.

As the Hallam report says, there are a lot of us on the coast. There is a lot of employment on the coast and, frankly, with four months to go before the election we need to bear in mind the fact that there are a lot of voters there; 3.2 million is the number given in the Hallam report. There are things that we can get right ourselves, but we are also a huge under-appreciated asset outside London. Personally, I would like the Minister to have more power: to fight our corner on transport; to oblige the local enterprise partnerships to take more notice of their coastal towns; to protect and support marketing strategies in a time of council cuts; and perhaps even to lobby the Treasury for VAT cuts for in-bound tourism, as happens in some competitor countries.

We are not looking for a bail-out exercise; coastal towns are genuinely resilient and sustainable. They are also places where people want to live; we do not all want to live in flats in Manchester. The narrative of constant decline just does not hold; the first charter flights to Spain from the UK left more than 50 years ago and, frankly, by now we have got round to dealing with that. We are not a basket case. All we really need is a fair deal that is bolted properly into Government policy in all Departments. We are necessarily on the margins of Britain, but we do not want to be a marginal afterthought when it comes to Government policy.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh). I agree with much of what he said and congratulate him on securing this important debate.

I, too, welcome the report from Sheffield Hallam university. My only quibble is that the press release accompanying it talks about seaside towns from Brighton to Bournemouth in the south and Scarborough to Southport in the north. Alliteration may have triumphed, but there are important seaside towns in the north-east and my comments will be based pretty much around them.

The report confirms that many seaside towns have weathered a severe economic storm pretty well, but they face an uncertain and difficult future. Only yesterday, the North East chamber of commerce reported that economic growth in the region is considerably slower than it was a year ago. At a time when many families are struggling to pay their food and energy bills, a holiday is a distant prospect for many. Seaside destinations abroad are certainly out of their reach; ironically, when seaside destinations in this country see an upturn, they would welcome those families.

My first observation is that where regeneration happens in my constituency, seaside towns are often well placed to provide jobs and attract visitors. They are often best when there is a partnership with local businesses that have a strong interest in their home town. However, local authorities are important as well. At a time of economic growth, it is important that resources are available to local councils so that they can make sure that regeneration continues.

Secondly, in my experience, regeneration always takes longer than expected, and certainly longer than one would want it to. Money therefore has to go in over a long period. Government should be prepared for that. Thirdly, economic success and regeneration in coastal and seaside towns depends as much on the spending power of residents as on that of visitors, so regeneration has to bear residents in mind. Whitley Bay, for example, is regenerating the iconic Spanish City. We are also regenerating the seafront, removing eyesores such as former hotels, providing new schools and redeveloping the Playhouse theatre, which is for people who live there as well as people who will want to visit.

The first concern that I put to the Minister is whether there will be sufficient economic growth, and whether it will feed through to public funding for regeneration projects over a long period. If we get back to a 1930s level of public spending, we will end up with a deteriorated public realm; we saw that as recently as the 1980s, and seaside towns bore the brunt of that. Whitley Bay is to lose its police station but retain a police presence. The police presence is more important in a town like that—it has an evening economy that is very expensive to organise and police—than it might be in other parts of the region.

My second concern is about employment. The report states that Whitley Bay has about 1,100 people, and Tynemouth has about 700, employed in tourism. That is 100 more in Tynemouth, where there has been considerable regeneration, but 400 fewer in Whitley Bay, where regeneration has been somewhat delayed. In the north-east we have problems with a relatively low-wage economy, zero hours and under-employment. If seaside towns depend on the spending power of residents as well as visitors, and we end up with a low-wage economy, seaside towns will continue to struggle. We also need better access to broadband.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (John Pugh) on securing this debate. He made an excellent introductory speech, much of which I go along with.

Cleethorpes is, as I have said on many occasions, the premier resort of the east coast. Like most coastal communities, it is reliant both on seaside tourism and on the surrounding industrial base. In Cleethorpes, that is centred on Grimsby and Immingham. Traditionally, of course, the fishing industry was crucial. The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, which eventually became part of the Great Central railway, developed both the docks and Cleethorpes as a resort. It developed rail connections to the resort, which have always been crucial, particularly from south Yorkshire, which has always been the main catchment area.

It is often assumed that the British seaside tourist industry is in terminal decline. The buckets and spades have disappeared and been replaced by foreign package holidays. As was said earlier, cheap flights and package deals have been and gone, yet we still have a thriving seaside tourist industry. Nowadays, though, families tend to visit more frequently for shorter stays, rather than just once a year. This is an obvious choice for hard-working families. Up until the 1970s, trippers arrived in their thousands on rail excursions; sometimes there were 25 or 30 trains a day. Rail connections are still vital for the local economy, as the recent campaign to retain Cleethorpes to Manchester trains highlighted.

Having come through the years of decline, the resort has reinvented itself. The investments from Pleasure Island and Bourne Leisure, which operates the Thorpe Park complex, have played a major part in developing the resort for the 21st century. The recent opening of a new Premier Inn at Meridian Point shows that investors have confidence.

Of equal importance is the traditional side of the resort: amusement arcades and the beach. Fortunately, Cleethorpes is blessed with golden sands and other unique features, such as the Humberston Fitties. Time will not permit an explanation of the Humberston Fitties, but briefly it is a complex of unique chalets and bungalows. Unfortunately, North East Lincolnshire council is looking to dispose of the leaseholds, which, unless sufficient safeguards are put in place, could risk changing the whole character of that part of the resort.

At this point, it is appropriate to refer to the importance of industry, particularly the offshore industry and the renewables sector, which was mentioned earlier. Both are vital to the maintenance of the hotel and guest house businesses and many of the leisure businesses. Earlier this week, I spoke to one hotel that attributed 70% of its income to workers involved in the offshore industry.

Cleethorpes has seen many new business grow and the unemployment rate continues to fall. Indeed, it fell every month last year. Of course, viability is greatly dependent on the general state of the economy. This Government have done a great deal to support that, particularly through the regional growth fund and the coastal communities fund, which have helped various resorts.

In conclusion, the Minister will know that, prior to the last election, the Conservatives produced a document entitled “No longer the end of the line”. I hope that she will assure us that plans exist both in her Ministry and in the Conservative party to continue to boost our seaside towns. A little bit of pump-priming to support the private sector is all that we are asking for. I look to her to confirm that in her summing up.

I thank the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) for raising such an important topic, for outlining the case well and for giving us all an opportunity to contribute to this debate. I represent a constituency with a large coastal area—almost half of its border is coastal—so this debate is of tremendous importance to me.

The Northern Ireland composite economic index showed growth in our economy of 0.3% in the first quarter of 2014, and that was 1.2% up on the same period in 2013. That shows that there is growth, but growth does not always go through to the places where we want it. The hon. Gentleman outlined that growth needs to go to coastal communities as well. We would encourage that, and are keen to see that happen.

Coastal towns are not always seaside resorts; often, that has to be underlined. Many towns and villages in my constituency do not enjoy seasonal booms. Our coastline has many National Trust properties, which are popular with walkers and cyclists, and even those who are just after an ice cream or a bit of Portavogie scampi. These are things that people can enjoy. The restaurants along the coast obviously have locally caught fresh fish on the menu on all occasions, not fish imported by the boatload from Iceland and other parts of the world. That is one reason why our local restaurants are important.

I want quickly to mention growth in small coastal towns, which is very dependent on small and medium-sized businesses, rather than larger industries and companies coming to Belfast, for example.

Does my hon. Friend agree that while the amount of money in the coastal communities fund is welcome, we should encourage and expect the Minister to campaign for additional funding? Many want to see the development of our coastal resorts. I have five coastal towns in my constituency, and my hon. Friend has many in his. We need more than £500,000 coming to Northern Ireland to try to develop our industry.

I thank my hon. Friend for that. Clearly we are aware of the need for the coastal communities fund, which was set up in 2012 and has been extended to 2016. It aims to help seaside towns to achieve their economic potential, offer job opportunities and support local areas. I am delighted that many communities in my constituency will benefit directly from the fund. I am pleased that Portavogie harbour recently got funding of almost £1.5 million, which has enabled us to do more.

I represent a constituency that neighbours that of the hon. Gentleman. Does he agree that positive consideration needs to be given to a reduction in VAT on tourism for all the UK to ensure better economic growth in coastal communities?

I have supported a reduction in VAT for tourism since the beginning. The hon. Lady and I have worked on that with other Members. We passionately support that proposal, and we hope it is taken up.

The funding that went to Portavogie harbour enabled funding for local sports clubs, such as fishing and yachting clubs. It allowed for the repair of coastal promenades for tourist use. Since 2012, the Ards peninsula has been included in the Mourne coastal route, a scenic driving route that stretches across various parts of Northern Ireland, including my constituency and that of the hon. Lady. The area has become popular with cyclists, and there is a variety of cycling and walking routes. Those things have happened because of Government funding through community funds, but also because of the enterprise of those involved locally.

The peninsula has received some great news about the potential opening of two whiskey distilleries, which will be of much interest to many people. The growth of SMEs with Government support has enabled that to happen. We all know about Bushmills whiskey, but shortly people will know about two new famous brands on the market: the Echlinville distillery at Kircubbin and the new micro-distillery at Portaferry, both on the Ards peninsula. They will provide construction jobs initially, and long-term jobs—in the factory on the assembly line and the production line, in guided tours and in the restaurant and the coffee shop. There will even be a tasting room. There is a rumour that there is a long waiting list for the tasting room. I suspect that many people will want to know when that job becomes available, because they will want to be first in the queue. That is a long-term investment, further consolidating and boosting tourism up and down the Ards peninsula. Those things are happening because of the private enterprise of SMEs, with Government support.

In conclusion, it is all good news, but as Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice, said:

“Investment in our seaside towns is welcome, but this should be only the start. We need to boost skills, attract businesses, provide decent housing”—

there is much more to coastal communities than the beach and the shore—

“and encourage family stability. This would breathe new life into these towns—not just for visitors, but the people that live there.”

It is necessary to kick-start the process. Everything else falls into place once that has happened, because the process helps the local economy, local people and local business.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (John Pugh) on securing this debate. To add to what he said, an important factor for coastal communities is their geography. They are 180° communities; they can only draw on the 180° market behind them. They are peripheral to the main centres of population. They can be end-of-the-line towns that have to create something for people to want to visit them; otherwise people go elsewhere. Coastal towns tend to have a similar demography: an older population with high welfare dependency. As has been said, the brightest and best tend to move way.

Historically, most of our coastal communities were based around fishing and a hinterland of agriculture. The railways came, and then came tourism. Social change came with the working man being given holidays. A number of our Victorian seaside resorts grew and grew. Then they became Meccas for retirement. After people had enjoyed a holiday in a coastal community, the idea of retiring to the seaside was attractive. Then came the invention of the jet engine and the package holiday, and that prime position for domestic primary holidays ended.

That has left our larger Victorian seaside resorts with a number of challenges. It is not a north-south divide; the divide is between some of the larger, old Victorian seaside resorts and the rest. Scarborough, Blackpool and Torbay have similar problems. There are towns on the south coast that tend to boom, but they are exceptions rather than the norm. The challenges that face us are that primary holidays are now taken overseas. Brands and chains have largely overtaken the family-owned small businesses that used to plough their profit back into the area. The profit from tourism now largely leaves the area. There has been welfare migration, partly as a consequence of the older hotels and guest houses converting to houses in multiple occupation and being available to rent, which has led to insecure employment, low incomes and rising social costs, but it is not all doom and gloom. There is a great future for our coastal communities.

The picture that my hon. Friend has painted could be replicated along the Essex coast, including in Clacton. Does he agree that the VAT campaign has to take in the whole country, including historical inland resorts, and not just coastal resorts?

There is a case for looking at the VAT rates in comparison to those in Europe. A competitive advantage is given to some European countries, and the Government need to look seriously at that.

Coastal communities have a great future. Most of them are in beautiful environments, and that can attract people to live and work there. They are areas that lend themselves to cultural activities and to creative and high-tech industries. They are entrepreneurial centres that often have a high percentage of small businesses. For example, 75% of all internet traffic in north America used to travel on equipment built in Paignton in my constituency by Nortel Networks. Unfortunately, the company went bust in 2001, but at its height in 2000, it employed more than 6,000 people. Wages lifted across the board, and tourism in the area increased because of the number of business people coming in. Out of its ashes, we now have a good embryonic high-tech sector that needs nurturing and support. That could lead to more sustainable full-time jobs.

The future is to diversify away from an over-dependence on one industry and to have a number of different industries supplying jobs, including tourism—whether that is niche tourism or more upmarket tourism—and that can only be helped by such things as a VAT reduction. My main request to the Government is not on VAT, because that will take some time, but for something quick. I ask them to increase the amount of money in the coastal communities fund by a significant amount by raiding a tiny percentage of the regional growth fund. As small coastal communities are full of small businesses, they cannot lever in the kind of private sector money that they need to compete fairly for regional growth funding. They just do not succeed in their bids for regional growth funding. The coastal communities fund, which is tailor-made for coastal communities, is the obvious way forward.

There are three things every coastal community needs: good skills to attract inward investors and to create jobs locally, better connectivity—I am grateful for the money that has gone into the Kingskerswell bypass in my constituency—and affordable housing.

I extend my congratulations to the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) on securing the debate. I have been honorary president of British Destinations for some years, and it was one of the sponsors of the Fothergill report. We have already heard some useful references to that report, which gave a balanced view of seaside areas. The issue, however, is what drives the economies of coastal and seaside towns. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell) said, the key element must be the regeneration of the public realm and of infrastructure for residents and visitors, because if either category is not satisfied, the town will not flourish.

The CCF has been, and must be, an important element in providing support. However—the hon. Member for Southport was good enough to refer to this—it came two years after the Government had abandoned the Sea Change programme introduced by the previous Government, and after the future jobs fund, which produced about 4,000 jobs in seaside towns, and the coastal change pathfinder had been abandoned. Things come and go, therefore, but the CCF has been important.

As many Members have said, small business is vital for tourism and non-tourism, not just directly, but as part of a supply chain. In Blackpool, for example, procurement has been a key issue. Get Started, which the previous Government originally funded using local enterprise growth initiative funding and which now has funding from the regional development fund, has produced more than 1,000 new businesses over the past seven years, with sponsorship from Blackpool council. The Build Up initiative from Blackpool and The Fylde college has seen large numbers of people take up employment in construction.

There are other challenges we have to look at. Small businesses need apprentices. As the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) said, they need appropriate support from funds such as the regional growth fund. The service sector also needs apprentices, although that sometimes gets lost in this process. Small businesses have been crucial in the South Shore area of Blackpool, which I and others have been trying to revive. We saw the effects of small businesses when we had small business Saturday last year. We had everything from the Lancashire Cheesecake Company, to a dolls collectables organisation, to a wool shop run by the local chair of the Federation of Small Businesses. Those are really important, but there must also be Government fiscal incentives for such things, which is why the Labour party’s promises to freeze and then to cut small business rates are important.

On structures, the regional development agencies did a lot to address some of the issues the hon. Member for Southport mentioned in relation to second-tier towns. The performance of the LEPs has been mixed; they could do much more, and we need to make changes. The direction of travel is for funding to move from Government to the LEPs across the piece, and it is important that we look at seaside and coastal towns in that context.

We must have decent economic drivers in seaside towns such as Blackpool. Small businesses need the regional bank proposals the Labour party has made in connection with a British investment bank. We need the Government to recognise the big issue of houses in multiple occupation and the unfairness of local government settlements, which has been spelled out since 2010, with skewed demography and pepper-pot deprivation not being recognised in funding.

Of course, it will never be easy for seaside towns to do everything they need to do. Using the funding it received from the previous Government, Blackpool has done an enormous amount with the tower and the Winter Gardens. Whoever is in government next, however, these processes should be an issue for all Departments, not just one. Embedding the interests of seaside and coastal towns across all Departments will be a key issue for whoever takes power in May.

Members have spoken with great passion about their constituencies, and I will certainly do the same. The coastal towns of Folkestone and Hythe are part of a coastal renaissance that is spread across east Kent. As the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) suggested, places such as Whitstable, Ramsgate and the Turner Contemporary centre in Margate are all examples of successful coastal regeneration.

We will never regenerate our coastal towns, however, if we feel sorry for them. We should feel proud of them, and we should make being a 180° town on the coast a virtue. Indeed, that is why towns are there—because being on the coast was seen as a virtue. These are places where people want to be, where they can enjoy themselves and where they can enjoy the high quality of life that comes from living near the sea.

Coastal towns have always been very creative, because they have had to compete. For those built on tourism, the tourism season in England, Wales and Northern Ireland does not last all year, and they have to have an out-of-season offer. In my constituency, one of the biggest employers is Saga, which provides financial services and holidays for the over-50s. It was started by one hotelier in Folkestone, Sidney De Haan, who offered out-of-season holidays to couples celebrating their silver and golden wedding anniversaries. It is now a multi-billion pound business, and it continues to employ a large number of people. That is an example of the creativity and ingenuity of coastal towns in stretching the holiday season and bringing in other types of investment.

I agree with other hon. Members that infrastructure is key, and there is no doubt that east Kent benefits massively from High Speed 1, which has brought journey times into St Pancras down to under an hour, greatly helping the regeneration of my constituency, bringing in new jobs and investment, and bringing in money and people from London.

The Government have certainly helped through the regional growth fund, and I know the Minister has been busy visiting lots of coastal communities around the country—she has certainly been to my constituency and others in east Kent. The fund has been helpful in targeting money at local businesses—not just traditional tourism businesses, but engineering firms and creative industries companies—helping them to grow, creating new jobs and providing better business infrastructure. That has been supported by excellent initiatives from the local authority, which has supported schemes in my constituency such as the Marsh Million fund for Romney Marsh, which helps small and micro-businesses to get started.

I ask the Minister to give favourable consideration in the next round to the local enterprise partnership bid from the South East local enterprise partnership, particularly in relation to support for the Folkestone seafront regeneration. Folkestone has embraced the need to have a new purpose. The town was originally born from fishing and farming. It then became a popular Victorian resort based on the railway. We now have good rail infrastructure, which is vital to the town’s future success, but the town’s new role as a hub for the creative industries, with a fantastic link almost directly into Tech City, is part of its future. Attracting business investment in this high-growth sector is important, and that is complemented by the creative industries’ natural role in attracting people interested in the arts and the outdoor space, and people looking to work in an alternative, different way while still being within striking distance of a main business centre. That is part of our plan, but we also want to link that growth and investment in the creative industries to education and training opportunities for young people so that investment in business today is linked to jobs in the future for young people.

The opportunities are there. The coast in east Kent has a bright future. We are on the edge of a genuine coastal regeneration but, as I said, the Government’s role in providing infrastructure investment through the growth funds and the LEPs to support that growth will be vital.

I have two coastal towns in my constituency: Prestatyn and Rhyl. Both are blessed with a built environment and a natural environment. The backdrop to both is an area of outstanding natural beauty—one of only three in Wales—and the Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins spoke lyrically about both. Both towns are blessed with beaches, and the Victorian artist Cox painted Rhyl beach. Both also have a coastal footpath and are part of the Sustrans national cycleway. Prestatyn is at the northern end of Offa’s Dyke, and there are the Prestatyn Morfas—the marshes—which I helped to protect in the local development plan five years ago. Rhyl has a harbour, mudflats and a marine lake. Both towns have excellent natural and built environments.

The Prime Minister often slags off the Welsh Government for a lack of focus and investment, but let me just tell him what they are doing in Rhyl and Prestatyn. In Rhyl, they have spent £10 million on a new harbour. They are spending £12 million on new flood defences. In Prestatyn, they are carrying out a £4 million revamp of the Nova leisure centre and a £7 million revamp of the railway station. In Rhyl, they are having a £28 million new housing scheme. They are knocking down houses in multiple occupation, which are six storeys high, and building two-storey family accommodation, which will be put up for sale, changing the tenureship in the community.

In Rhyl, a £25 million new school was started in December, and there will possibly also be a £28 million new faith school. Some £22 million has been spent on the town’s first college, including a £6 million extension, and £6 million has been spent on a sixth-form college. Some £22 million is being spent on a new community hospital, and £5 million has been spent on a new clinic in the town’s West ward. That is what the Welsh public sector is doing in Rhyl and Prestatyn.

The private sector is also playing its part in investing in coastal towns in my area. The Apollo cinema—a £2.5 million investment. A new hotel in Rhyl—£5 million. A new bus station and railway station—£5 million. In Prestatyn, we have had a multi-million pound new shopping centre.

What are central Government doing for investment in my constituency’s coastal towns? Let me tell the House: 100 years after its opening in 1914 they are closing down the Army recruitment centre. In Rhyl they are closing the office of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in Churton road and the family courts in Clwyd street, and they will either close or relocate the Crown post office in Water street. I believe that in Wales and in the coastal towns of my constituency we have the answer—a Welsh solution—to the UK problem of investment in seaside towns. In the past 50 years, the struggling areas—coal, steel, inner city and rural communities—have had billions of pounds put into them, and rightly, because they were struggling; but the long-term decline, politics aside, of coastal communities—[Interruption.]

The 40 or 50-year decline, especially of seaside bucket and spade communities, has not been addressed properly. In Wales it is now being addressed and I urge the Minister to take a look at the best practice in Wales, and at what Carwyn Jones, the First Minister, Edwina Hart, the Economics Minister, Huw Lewis, the Education Minister, and Carl Sargeant, the Floods Minister, are doing.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Main. I congratulate my near neighbour—at least he is in Lancashire—the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh), for introducing the debate, which is well attended. The debate is about coastal towns but let us not forget that between those are villages and hamlets, and the coastal community area, which is not just urban territory.

Fleetwood’s population is 26,000. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) about the Government needing to learn much from Wales about investment. Five primary schools in Fleetwood have been completely refurbished at a cost of, I think, around £10 million. There is a brand new fire and emergency centre, and a £60 million-plus investment in a new sea wall to protect thousands of properties; that work is under way at present. The town has also had £1.5 million from the coastal communities fund for the front and for improvements to the Marine hall; and £2.4 million from the lottery fund, for improvements to the memorial park created in recognition of those who died in the 1914-18 war. The nautical college, one of the few left in the country that train people for the merchant marine, has been upgraded and become part of a new energy specialist college.

Putting politics aside, there are obviously still other pressures. Other hon. Members have talked about towns at the end of the line, and Fleetwood is one of the 10 biggest towns in the country that still do not have a main railway line connection. That went many years ago. The refurbishment of the tram line has finally been finished, but it comes to a full stop near where Fleetwood pier used to be. Unfortunately that caught fire a number of years ago, although how a concrete pier caught fire remains a mystery.

The key to Fleetwood in the past was not just attracting visitors. I am sure that many hon. Members realise that it centred on the fishing industry, which was huge. What we are left with at present, in the dilapidated docks—although there is a yachting marina and a great deal of yachting—are three boats out of the huge fleet that I remember from my childhood when I would spend holidays in Blackpool and go to Fleetwood to watch the ships come in. Around the fishing industry was a fish processing industry, however, and the skills have been maintained in family after family. Today, the fish processing industry in Fleetwood generates £135 million annually for the local economy, and employs more than 600 people.

I am taking part in the debate today to make an appeal in relation to a proposal from Wyre council, supported by Fleetwood town council, for which private sector funds are waiting as part of the regional growth fund, to fund what we call a new fish park—or a Billingsgate of the north. That will concentrate the fish processors and take them out of dilapidated buildings, and, as other hon. Members have said, build on the skills of smaller companies and enable them to expand. The proposal includes expanding the fish processing industry by more than 25%, and I hope that the Minister will carefully consider it, because it has the potential to bring significant improvement to Fleetwood.

I welcome what the Government have done in the past five years through significant investment. A great deal more is needed, and, with reference to the comments of my near neighbour the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden), I suggest that whichever party next has power, we may need a Minister for Coastal Communities to bring all the disparate parts of government together and build on the achievements of the present Government.

Happy new year to you, Mrs Main, and to hon. Members. I will in my speech bridge the gap between the different levels of government, because I have seen significant change in my coastal community, and I am one of the few MPs in this Parliament who represent a purely island community.

My constituency is surrounded by 125 miles of the most beautiful coastline in the United Kingdom. It is on the periphery only from the point of view of someone in London, Cardiff or the midlands, because it is the heart of the British isles. Its near neighbour is Ireland and Northern Ireland; Scotland is to its north and England is to its east and south. It is a gateway, and I agree with the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins): we do not need to take a depressing view of coastal towns and communities. I represent coastal communities as well as the larger towns around the coast. They are gateways, set up when people brought goods through the ports, and they were strategically important to the United Kingdom. I still believe that they are strategically important to the whole United Kingdom and that that must continue.

Success in my area has been due to partnership working between local authorities. The Welsh Government have added a new dimension since 1999, and so have the UK Government and the European Union. We have had structural funds, and the EU identified the fact that many areas on its periphery—and on the periphery of Britain and of Wales—need special attention. I am not very proud of it, but we qualified in 1999 for objective 1 status because of deprivation in those coastal communities. On the map of Wales, the urban valleys experienced that depression, and so did west Wales. Those peripheral communities suffered and it was difficult for them to regenerate.

What will happen to those European funds, from which my area also benefits, if we pull out of the EU in 2017?

I am sure that we want to talk about coastal towns and not the EU, Mrs Main, but the funding has been hugely positive. We have had partnership working, and the need for the help was identified at European level, so I think that I want my community to be in Europe—and at its heart, as Anglesey is the heart of the British isles. I want it to benefit from being in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Objective 1 has been beneficial. There is greater flexibility in the new round of structural funds that coastal towns can take advantage of to regenerate communities for tourists and residents alike. Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden), mentioned the importance of residents and not just visitors, although they are very welcome. I think it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell) who talked about Scarborough; I went there this year, and if the weather is fine it is as good a place to go to as anywhere in continental Europe. There are some good places.

Some constituents of the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) go on short holidays to north Wales, and that is why the European dimension is important. The A55 expressway through Wales does not only link England and Wales; continental Europe sees it as a major transport link to the Republic of Ireland, on which we welcome many visitors through Wales. Wales should be seen not just as a transit area, but as a destination. I ask the Minister to consider the partnership working that can be developed. I work closely with Visit Wales, VisitBritain and my local authority, which has a Destination Anglesey project. That includes the overlooked tourism importance of local people staying in their area. They can go for weekends locally rather than away from the area.

Tourism is important and so is industry. It is not an either/or thing. Both can live side by side if there is proper planning, but planning is better if the big picture is considered, together with the advantages to be had from working in partnership with local authorities, the Welsh Government—in my case—the UK Government and the European Union, for the benefit of residents and visitors.

My sole aim in coming to this place is to promote my community as a place to work, live and visit. If we look at those things, coastal communities can be top of the league in the future and can thrive again as people’s first port of call. They can act as gateways for attracting new industries, new businesses and economic regeneration to the whole of the United Kingdom.

My constituency covers the part of the north Yorkshire coast that includes the vibrant town of Redcar and the pretty village of Marske. It is also the east end of the Tees valley city region. One issue for coastal areas such as mine is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (John Pugh) said in his introductory remarks, identity and vision. Whether the coastal town wants to be a resort, a day trip leisure destination, a dormitory town or even an industrial centre has major consequences for planning its transport, regeneration, accommodation provision, business development, housing, the environment and so on. I see all that in my constituency. When I see a list of the issues that coastal towns have, I can usually identify with pretty well all of them.

Studies show that the most successful coastal towns have certain characteristics. They have an enterprise culture. Many are close to major population centres, which helps them to regenerate. They have good transport and communication links. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) talked about the revival in Kent, and good transport links can turn coastal towns into dormitory towns; the Government should make that a policy target. Successful coastal towns have access to business opportunities and understand the wider area in which they sit.

Things have been improving in my area under the Government. The steel works have restarted in Redcar, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has invested £30 million in the seafront, which has provided a new promenade. We have had leisure investment. The Tees Valley local enterprise partnership has been active and successful. The regional growth fund has been pouring money into my area at a rate five times greater than under the old regional development agency. Many new industries are active, business formation is up 19% in the past year and we are about to get a new oil and gas college. I could go on. Unemployment is down by more than 35% since 2010.

I agree that we need to have aspiration, ambition and a positive outlook for our coastal towns. There is still a lot more to do in my area, in particular on entrepreneurship and skills development. In the last table I saw, Redcar and Cleveland had the lowest number of entrepreneurs per head in the country. That is certainly a target for our part of the coast. We also need to make our enterprise zone function. There was inertia after it was given to an outfit called Onsite, which was not enterprising and did not want to do anything.

I am optimistic about my area. There are various things that the Government need to do. They need to continue with the LEP model, which serves my part of the world extremely well, although I accept it may not do so everywhere. They must continue to support job creation in areas of the country, such as Redcar, where we have economic capacity—people, houses and school places—without the need for massive extra investment. It is sensible for the country to invest in those areas. They must give Tees valley the European money that it qualifies for. It has a status that results in a fair amount of money coming in, so let us keep it coming directly to the area.

We have benefited from the coastal communities fund. I ask the Government to look closely at favouring areas in which the licence income is generated. We have 27 turbines just off our beach, in addition to gas pipelines, cables and so on. That is where a lot of the coastal community money is generated, so let us make sure we get our fair share of it back again. We need an electrified rail line in the Tees valley and to Middlesbrough—

I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) on securing this debate.

Most of the contributions have focused on the enduring value and potential of coastal towns and the visitor economy. Furness is undoubtedly the most beautiful part of the Morecambe bay area, and there is enormous potential for the visitor economy to grow. Visitors to the Lake district can come to its beaches and use its Dock Museum as a rainy-day destination—unfortunately, it is no secret that it occasionally rains when people go walking in the Lakes. We should not forget the enormous potential of many of our coastal areas, including mine.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming—

Where was I? Everyone remembers, I am sure.

I was talking about the industrial power of coastal towns. Barrow went from a mere hamlet to a shipbuilding powerhouse within a few short decades because of the mix of coal and iron and the town’s location by the sea, enabling it to grow. It is precisely the location of coastal towns that has often given them that industrial kick.

South Cumbria has amazing opportunities ahead. It has the combination of the new generation of nuclear submarines being built in Barrow shipyard—involving many thousands of the highest skilled jobs in manufacturing and engineering that exist anywhere in the country—new civil nuclear up the road, offshore wind growing apace, gas coming in and a cutting-edge biopharmaceutical plant being built by GlaxoSmithKline. Amazing things are happening, but we need to do more and Government need to work to ensure that the area’s true potential is reached. Critically, the many small businesses in the area should be able to become part of the supply chains of those giant groups, which has proved too difficult in the past.

We were delighted when Furness Enterprise’s bid to the coastal communities fund was fast-tracked back in June, because it was to provide support not only principally for small businesses, but for the tier 1 companies to develop local supply chains. We became increasingly worried when the bidding process dragged on and, before Christmas, Furness Enterprise announced that it would have to be wound up because the bid had not been achieved. I was so grateful to the Minister for agreeing to see me at such short notice before Christmas to discuss what was happening with the bid. She assured us that it remained live, despite the formal winding up of Furness Enterprise. We are absolutely clear that the capacity remains in the region. A number of us wrote to her over the Christmas break with assurances about what we believe to be the way forward for the bid. If the Minister has time when she responds, I would be grateful if she could tell us whether she has considered the bid and when she will be able to make an announcement about it.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) on securing this important debate, which has generated a huge amount of interest throughout the country and the House. We have heard some interesting and diverse contributions about the range of issues facing our seaside towns and coastal communities.

I have heard that it is important for people to claim their area as the premier resort, whatever their part of the country, but I can tell everyone that the Boating lake at Corby is the premier resort in north Northamptonshire. We, however, are located at the centre of the country—not the centre of the British isles, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) told us, but the centre of the mainland UK. We are therefore a centre of logistics and have all sorts of advantages from our location, although we are one of the furthest places from the seaside—it is two hours to Skegness and a little further to Hunstanton. However, the roads to the east coast and further afield are well travelled by Northamptonshire folk, and we have just as much of a love of the seaside and our coastal communities as has been shown by hon. Members from all across the country today.

In fact, when thinking ahead to this debate I thought of my experience just a few weeks ago in Cornwall. I visited some of its beautiful fishing villages, such as Port Isaac, Boscastle—famous, of course, for the flood there, which shows the importance of flood defences—and the now famous Padstow, known to some as “Padstein”; the culinary offer developed there has helped to regenerate that community. That shows us that coastal towns need a vision that goes beyond the core ingredients of an area and is developed into a vision of how to bring much wider economic benefits. For example, in Padstow there is now a cookery school, a huge amount of hotel accommodation and so on, and the community has really begun to develop.

Coastal communities are at different stages. The hon. Member for Southport characterised the types as those experiencing prosperity; those on a journey towards prosperity, and that are developing and regenerating—a journey common to many of the stories we have heard today—and those that still feel that, for a range of reasons, they face decline and so are looking for a way forward to make the most of the opportunities for their communities.

I went to Hastings recently to meet representatives of the local authority there and hear about the great work that, like many other local authorities across the country, it is doing to regenerate its area. I saw the historic pier being rebuilt and tasted a beautiful pint of Pier beer at the White Rock hotel. I also saw the interesting role the local authority is taking with its Grotbusters strategy to improve the built environment and get private landowners to improve premises, particularly on the beautiful seafront, and bring them up to standard. Local authorities can play an important role.

Government must also play an important role. We know that people like me from the midlands are often drawn to coastal communities for tourism and so perhaps are drawn to the most beautiful and picturesque parts of those communities. But there is a more mixed and complicated past, present and future for those communities, with issues of physical isolation, higher than average deprivation levels, inward migration of older people, large numbers of people passing through without settling, outward migration of young people—that has been referred to—and higher than average unemployment.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Hastings, which was one of the places visited some years ago by the Select Committee of which I am a member. The people we met specifically mentioned that they did not see the revival of Hastings as necessarily being the same thing as the revival of the seaside industry. They were also thinking about IT and improved transport links, and did not necessarily put all their money on the seaside brand.

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. The thumbnail sketch given by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) of the range of industries in his constituency shows that we would be wrong to think of seaside towns and coastal communities as having a future only in tourism; although that sector may offer something important to many communities, we need a much more rounded picture of the types of jobs that can be created and the industries that can thrive in our coastal communities.

Tourism is Britain’s fifth largest industry. It accounts for 9% of jobs, supports nearly 250,000 businesses and generates huge revenue for the UK economy—£134 billion—so it must be part of our strategy. But coastal communities have distinctive geography. They are often on the periphery, and many hon. Members discussed some of the challenges that that can bring. They can also be jumping-off points or transit points, as other hon. Members mentioned. They balance new businesses and technologies while trying to retain their tourist market. Seaside towns experience a particularly high proportion of poor-quality housing. It is important that we support renters. We must take real action to tackle the issues that arise from houses in multiple occupation, and give renters greater security.

The hon. Member for Southport mentioned the sea change programme, which drove cultural and creative regeneration in many places. He will know that this Government abolished that programme. That is a symbol of the way in which the Government have let down our seaside and coastal communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) was right to highlight the future jobs fund, which created nearly 4,000 jobs for young people in seaside towns. Its abolition was wrong and was particularly damaging at the time. The Government also abolished the coastal change pathfinder scheme to help coastal communities deal with the consequences of flooding.

I recognise that the Government have set up the coastal communities fund, which I am sure the Minister will refer to. The fund is welcome, but coastal communities need more than a grant of £50,000, welcome though that is. I agree absolutely with my right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell) that they need long-term commitment to regeneration. The example of the Welsh Government, which we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), is a powerful one. The commitment to a wide range of regeneration projects—the harbour, the natural environment, new housing, a new school, the railway station—is the kind of commitment that our coastal communities, including those across England, need from their Government.

In his introductory remarks the hon. Member for Southport said that we need to place the issues in a wider context, and he is right. He will know as well as any hon. Member the impact of the Government’s cuts on local authority funding and their unfair distribution across the country. The National Audit Office recently found that the Government will have reduced funding to local authorities by 37% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2015-16. It also found that those cuts have hit the most disadvantaged communities hardest.

That is a concern for coastal communities. Blackpool has faced a cut of 20.6%, as the hon. Gentleman will know. Plymouth faced a grant cut of 14.3%, and Hastings a cut of 10.7%. They will face even greater challenges in maintaining the kinds of services their communities need, but the spending power of councils such as Wokingham, Surrey Heath and Elmbridge, in the centre of our country, has been increased. People living in places such as Blackpool will not understand why the Government have made such unfair cuts to different parts of the country.

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that there are constituencies such as mine, which has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the south-east, where the local authority has managed to find efficiency savings to deal with the cuts and has also cut council tax throughout this Parliament?

Local authorities up and down the country have done a fantastic job. In fact, Labour authorities, which have, on average, faced much higher cuts, deserve particular praise from hon. Members for trying to keep local services going in their communities and trying to protect those communities from the impact of the cuts. However, the cuts have been really unfairly distributed. Disadvantaged areas have been hit the most. There is higher than average deprivation in coastal communities, and a cursory look at the list of cuts that different areas have faced tells us that our coastal communities—particularly those that most need the Government’s support—have been hit hard by this Government.

There is an alternative. Councils need fair funding, help with longer term funding settlements so that they can plan ahead to protect services, and more devolution of power so that they can work with other public services locally to get the most out of every pound of public funding. We need to help every part of the country to succeed. I agree with hon. Members from all parties that our coastal communities need to be a key part of the deliberations of local enterprise partnerships—working with local authorities and the combined authorities that have been established in some areas and ought to be established more widely across the country—when they consider how to drive economic growth in all parts of the country. It is all well and good for the Chancellor to go to Greater Manchester and for the Government to talk a good game about city deals. We need county deals, too, and coastal community deals. That is what Labour will offer after the next election.

We need to integrate health and social care—that will be critical to many coastal communities, which have large retired and elderly populations. We can see from the news today of the worst NHS crisis in 10 years that doing that is vital. It matters to our coastal communities.

We also need to devolve powers on transport. Coastal communities are often at the end of the line; sometimes, as the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw) said, they are not on the line at all. We need to give those communities the opportunity to look at how they can bring transport networks together, and how they regulate bus services in their area. We need to give young adults the opportunity to gain the skills they need to make the most of new jobs in the creative and cultural industries and the high-tech economies.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth rightly highlighted, we need to look at cost of living issues. We need to look at the use of zero-hours contracts in these areas and we need to raise the minimum wage. That is why people in these communities need a Labour Government. If people living in coastal communities do not have the money in their pockets, they cannot take advantage of Destination Anglesey and the “staycation” opportunities that we want to promote to allow local people to enjoy the communities on their doorstep.

I am conscious of the time, Mrs Main.

I will do. For all those reasons—whether housing, supporting tourism, universal broadband, giving our young people a chance or a regeneration strategy that opens up opportunities to all areas of the country—we need a Labour Government this May.

I think that all hon. Members who wanted to speak in the debate have done so, but if anyone wants to get on the record, I will be happy to take interventions. I thank the hon. Member for Southport (John Pugh) for securing the debate. He set the scene extremely well. I also thank all hon. Members who contributed. They have spoken eloquently and with pride about the economic challenges and opportunities that face their constituencies, and what needs to be done.

The Government are at one with hon. Members in wanting to see our coastal towns thrive and we are committed to making them better places to live, work and visit. Coastal communities are a major part of who we are as a nation. More than 11 million of us live in coastal areas, from major cities such as my own of Portsmouth to seaside villages.

As we have established in the debate, they face some unique challenges and the Government recognise that. That is why we are providing additional support for those challenges. Whether they be the transport challenges of being at the end of the line, the skills deficit or battling the elements, those communities need that additional support. However, as has come through in the debate, they also have unique opportunities, whether through their natural history or their tremendous heritage. They are also incredibly resilient, creative and adaptable communities. I have seen that as I have travelled around the country as the Minister. He also touched on what makes a success story in such areas: a clear vision for that area’s future, plugged into the wider area’s economic plans, with strong leadership and a dynamic local team to bring that to fruition.

The hon. Gentleman highlighted two important themes. First, as the Sheffield Hallam study showed, some places are faring better than others. While many resorts in the south-east and the south-west are doing well and showing solid growth in tourist employment, in some places—such as Blackpool—jobs in seaside tourism have decreased. That underlines the second theme: our coastal and seaside towns are not a uniform group. Each has its own unique and varied history and often different economic, social and physical circumstances. A locally tailored approach is needed, so it is vital that that is provided to let those communities thrive.

The Government’s response has been to give coastal communities the means to take control and act in the best interests of their local area. We have done that through a variety of tools and incentives, freedoms and flexibilities to help drive growth and create jobs, including the coastal communities fund; tax breaks; local enterprise partnerships; enterprise zones; city deals; the regional growth fund; transport spending, with £9 billion to date and £15 billion to come; investment in broadband infrastructure; the better care fund; sea defences; community rights through neighbourhood planning; and community asset transfer. We have also taken actions to cut red tape such as the marine and coastal concordat, which has had tremendous success in helping our ports.

As the hon. Gentleman said, we need to ensure that all of those measures work together, as opposed to being distinct items. They must pull together so that we can maximise the benefits for our communities.

I concur with what the Minister said, but does she think that the closure of the tax office, army recruitment centre and family courts in Rhyl and the possible closure of the Crown post office shows that the Government are working in the same direction with local government and the Welsh Government? Is that helping to regenerate or degenerate Rhyl?

If that is what the hon. Gentleman is reliant on to create jobs and not just economic growth, but quality of life in his area, he will be on a sticky wicket. The challenge in looking to the future is to put infrastructure in place to create jobs in sustainable new industries. That will mean change for many of our coastal communities but, from what I have seen, they are well placed for that, because they are incredibly adaptable.

What we need to ensure, through that long list that I just mentioned, is that these communities have investment. They need the opportunities to lever further funds, whether European or private sector, and to unlock the good will that exists though community asset transfers and other things. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to look at the many examples that have been mentioned today and to raise his ambition for his area.

I will touch on two items that I mentioned in the list. Local enterprise partnerships have been a tremendous success. They are well established as the bodies that are taking forth economic development. They are clearly evolving, but they have achieved a huge amount. About half of all LEPs are in coastal or estuary areas. As part of the growth deals in July, we committed more than £500 million to projects in coastal areas and in the autumn statement the Chancellor announced a further allocation of £1 billion of investment in the second round, and the bidding process is well under way for that. However, as the hon. Member for Southport said, we need to do more to ensure that coastal communities have a high profile in LEPs and that their projects, ideas and initiatives are well embedded in the local economic strategy. I will shortly make some announcements that will help to strengthen that, but we are already talking to LEPs about the importance of coastal communities and doing things in a more joined-up way.

Secondly, I want to touch on the coastal communities fund. The fund to date has provided £65 million in grants to 117 projects across the UK, attracted a further £103 million of other private and public sector funding and it is forecast to deliver just shy of 9,000 jobs, nearly 4,000 training places and apprenticeships and more than 400 new business start-ups. It has been a tremendous success.

I want to see that fund adapt, improve and grow. It must be embedded in the local economic strategy. We must also look at it in the round to unlock the further good will and funding that coastal communities fund projects could lever. I am encouraged by the number of hon. Members who spoke about successful projects in their areas. Indeed, the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), whom I thank for the time that he has spent with me, has a bid that is still live. I hope to make announcements on the next round of coastal communities funding shortly. He will understand that I cannot give him assurances, but his is a strong bid, as is that of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw). We were encouraged by the helpful correspondence we received over Christmas, so I thank him for his role in that.

Our coastal towns are reinventing themselves. Government have provided all this help, but those communities are really the heroes here, whether it is Lowestoft, which is reinventing itself as a hub for clean technology, or Folkestone, which my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) spoke very eloquently about, with its tremendous input on creative industries. Whether it is sustainable fishing—[Interruption.]

For the benefit of everyone, I will sum up very quickly. I assure all hon. Members that the matters they have raised—having a higher profile for coastal communities with local enterprise partnerships, additional support for those with the biggest challenges, including those in the north, and continued support and investment—will come to pass. We should be optimistic about the future, and the only return to the 1930s will be in some beautifully renovated lidos. I thank all hon. Members, and particularly the hon. Member for Southport for securing the debate.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.