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22 April 2015

How has Britain’s most deprived community fared under the coalition?

At the start of the parliament, Jaywick was ranked the most deprived area in Britain. Coalition policies have left their mark.

By Morgan Meaker

It’s before 10am on Friday morning and Howard Richards, 42, is drinking a beer outside Jaywick post office. He’s unemployed and on crutches because he’s having serious problems with his hip – he says he’s been on the NHS waiting list for months but he’s still waiting.

Richards says he didn’t vote in the Clacton by-election because nobody would help him get to the polling station in town. If he’d made it, he would have voted for Ukip. He’s not surprised that Douglas Carswell won. He says Ukip is popular because the area is craving change. “No one could do any worse. Look at the state of this place.”

Jaywick is on the very edges of Clacton-on-Sea. Within Jaywick is Brooklands, an Essex road lined with one-story houses, built as holiday chalets in 1928. They’re the kind of houses that could have been imagined in a child’s drawing – perfectly square with triangular roofs. But today, they’re crumbling. The walls are cracked, the paint chipped and the road is spattered with potholes. Rubbish sits stubbornly on the verge as grass forces its way through the concrete.

In 2011, this part of Jaywick was branded as England’s most deprived area on the government’s indices of deprivation. Doreen Melville Riddell of the Department of Communities and Local Government said the index is judged on “the circumstances and lifestyle of the people living there”. Brookland’s title bought it to the attention of the British media and a flurry of coverage followed. But after five years of conservative government, not much has changed. The area has become a symbol of neglect. Since 2010, the residents feel barely anything has been done to help.

Another resident, Ricky Brown says how much he likes Jaywick as he walks along the beach. But he agrees more needs to be done: “It’s all broken promises down here. But Carswell’s a good lad. He’s always down here but we only see the other parties when they want our vote.”

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Not all areas on the deprivation index feel drawn towards Ukip. Speke is the area skirting Liverpool airport. Seven miles from the city centre, it’s isolated. On the surface it seems bustling with progress and industry; sparkling retail parks and new-build estates. But in a 2014 report, Liverpool government said the Speke-Garston ward was suffering from high levels of unemployment and deprivation – the child poverty rate is 42 per cent.

A resident, who asked not to be named, said: “People here see the Conservatives as out of touch and irrelevant but Ukip will not get a run in Liverpool.” Instead he thinks Labour support is strong and local Labour MP, Maria Eagle is “very popular”.

For Speke, Maria Eagle says the conservatives have “not helped, they’ve hindered. Cuts to local councils have hit Liverpool hard.” She believes the current government’s policies have been “specifically aimed at taking money from these people”.

Back in Clacton, conservative councillor Giles Watling defends the current government. He says they have been very proactive and they’ve made “an enormous amount of effort” in Jaywick.  He mentions visits from tory MPs and plans to upgrade the roads. “The area has been ignored for generations but now great minds have pulled together at a district, council and government level”.

But Gill Elkins MBE, secretary of the Jaywick & Tudor Resident’s Association says: “Most people here are not happy with the Tories because there’s been no finance coming from the government until the last three or four months. We have been promised funding now. But it would help if the government actually gave us the money and didn’t just promise.”   

She says the only investment in the area has come from energy companies who have installed double glazing and heating in homes. And in the last month, the local Tendring District Council has partnered with developers to move residents into better properties while new homes are built. Elkins feels positive about the regeneration plans. “It’s good because we need it. But people are very aware it’s the council who are doing this, not the government”.