Socio-economic squabbles broke out in Clacton on 20 January as Labour promoted its Coastal Communities Consultation in the resort’s townsquare, much to a Conservative councillor’s consternation.
Alex Mayer, an MEP for the East of England, said that according to the Social Market Foundation think-tank, coastal towns are lagging behind inland areas, and have some of the worst levels of economic and social deprivation in the country. She added that the Clacton area has also had more than £200,000 in European funding, which is under threat after the Brexit vote.
“I do like to be beside the seaside, there’s a real nostalgia about our seaside towns, but many local residents feel left behind,” Mayer said.
“It might sound like Punch and Judy politics, but the reality is that the Tories put a privileged few before hard-working families.
“I welcome this consultation and encourage as many people in Clacton as possible to take part and ensure Labour has the best possible policies for the area when we return to power.”
But Clacton MP Giles Watling hit back a Mayer’s comments, saying that “as a former regeneration portfolio holder for Tendring Council, member of the Coastal Communities Group and now MP for Clacton,” he is “well aware” of the issues that face coastal communities.
“Unlike inland communities, we can’t draw a circle around our centre and build economic activity totally around us,” Watling stated.
“Tourism is a major factor. Tendring has 36 miles of varied and glorious coastline, we are close to one of the most successful major conurbations of western Europe. We have good and improving connective infrastructure. Above all we have a business community with a positive attitude. Jobs are being created and, thanks to a vibrant and forward thinking district council, we have a growing economy.”
Watling added that “negative thinking and negative comments can only harm” the prospects of Clacton, and that while “there is deprivation” the community is “dealing positively with it”.
Concluding, the Tory councillor accused Labour of “trying to set the clock back and put our proud and thriving coastal community on a retrograde path”.
Labour’s campaign was launched on 1 December 2017, giving residents and businesses in seaside resort’s until 31 January 2018 to submit their thoughts and ideas on improving Britain’s coastal communities.