Inside UK’s poverty capital where ‘forgotten’ locals fear machete thugs and deserted shops are left to rot as costs soar

REM’S apocalyptic anthem It’s The End Of The World As We Know It echoes outside the aptly-named Never Say Die pub, as punters savour a rare bit of sunshine with a pint. 

While it seems an ironic choice, the words speak a dark truth to the residents of Jaywick, Essex, which regularly features on lists of the UK’s most deprived areas. 

With energy bills, fuel prices and even the cost of basic groceries soaring, locals feeling the brunt in this rundown seaside resort are deeply concerned.

“Petrol, diesel, energy – all the bills are up, but wages haven’t increased,” says Cheryl Mallion, who owns the Never Say Die pub and moved here from Leeds last June.

“My employees are asking for pay rises and say they can’t afford to live, but we don’t have any extra money to pay them, it’s really hard.”

The cost of living crisis is crippling countless businesses in Jaywick – and to add insult to injury, Cheryl recently had to raid the piggy bank to cover the cost of criminality.


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Just three weeks earlier, a man with a machete smashed the pub’s windows and now the 44-year-old no longer feels safe. 

She said: “Three of them were put through, as well as the windows of 12 cars on the street and two houses.

“He threatened to chop me up with his machete because I barred him for being aggressive and argumentative.”

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The Never Say Die pub had three windows smashed by a man with a machete three weeks agoCredit: Damien McFadden
Multiple shops have been claimed by the pandemic and it's feared more could goCredit: Damien McFadden

'I won't be able to do my food shop!'

For years, Jaywick has been blighted by documentaries that paint the 5,000-strong community as dossers, boozed-up benefits claimants and thugs.

While there is certainly an unsavoury underbelly to this close-knit community, residents insist most are the "friendliest and kindest people in the world”.

The Sun certainly experienced that warmth while talking to locals on Broadway, the main strip of the seaside town.

Despite their optimism, the area is in dire need of investment – broken glass bottles lie on the streets, cigarette butts pile up and crisp packets float in the wind.

Pensioner Gloria Carter, 72, feels the council are trying, but “a minute after they have cleaned it up, people chuck more rubbish on the street again”.

She wants to move away after watching her home of 22 years “get much worse”. Her one obstacle is being unable to afford to save for a deposit.

With rising energy bills, Gloria is on the verge of selling her car to cut costs but knows when she does, she will struggle to get any shopping due to having mobility problems. 

“If I stand still for too long, my legs go numb and I fall. It’s really scary,” she says while sitting on a wooden pallet outside the local supermarket.

“I’ve got to get rid of my car because I can’t afford it. I can’t make it on the bus with my leg, so I need to find a new way to get food. I won’t be able to go out or do a big shop anymore.”

Gloria adds that she’s having to top up her electric metre £20 each week, rather than once a fortnight.

Surviving on late sister's money

Before the pandemic, a government report named Jaywick as the most deprived neighbourhood in all of England.

More than half of the population was unemployed and the crime rate was double the national average.

While council bosses have drawn up plans to help the area under the Government's levelling up agenda, for now locals continue struggle on.

Retired barman Tony Name, 88, is living off inheritance money and wouldn’t be able to afford to live without it.

“I’m having to use all of my savings but I’ll survive for now,” the resident of 50 years says.

“Luckily, my sister left me some money when she passed away, so I’m having to use that to get through.” 

To combat the price hikes, many locals have taken up a second job, including bar worker Lorraine Jackson, 58, who’s collectively lived here for 11 years in two separate stints.

“I started working in Morrisons during the lockdown to help my husband and I, when everything was closed,” she said.

“It was the only way to get a bit of extra money but now, I can’t afford to give it up because we are struggling to afford everything and we wouldn’t survive without it.”

Previously, Lorraine and her husband would go on “nice drives” a couple of times a week, but now they are only making essential journeys to save on fuel.

It’s the same for retired postman Rob Jackson, 65, who has “had to cut back on everything” because his bills have doubled in the last six months. 

“My wife wanted to retire but we don’t think we can afford it at the moment. She’s doing more hours and we're cutting back too,” he said.

“We’re just about coping for the moment, but I do worry about when bills go up in the winter because my wife can’t work any more hours.”

'We've cut back a lot'

Outside the local pub, we met a man who referred to himself as Bill Murray – much to the amusement of his wife Anne Marie.

They are struggling to make ends meet after he became her full-time carer since she suffered a stroke and can no longer walk.

The Jaywick resident of 22 years is sipping his first pint in two months because he can’t afford to spend any more money than necessary.

“We’ve had to cut back a lot. It hurts because we aren’t getting anything from the Government, they don’t care about us down here,” the full-time carer said.

“We can’t afford the food we used to eat and we’re having to pay a lot more too."

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to introduce further measures to help those in need "in the months ahead".

He said his focus was on ensuring energy prices stabilise and allocating more funding to local councils.

As for Joan Hern, 82, she bought two lottery tickets today in the hope that she will no longer need to worry about winter price hikes.

The retired OAP home cook, who’s lived here for 22 years, said: “We’ve got some money to fall back on… it might be different later this year but I refuse to be cold.”

'We open late to save money'

It’s not just locals who are feeling the pinch. Multiple businesses that were forced into closure during the pandemic are now boarded up and covered with graffiti.

Those that are still standing risk being finished off and left to rot, like the neighbouring properties whose once pristine paint is now faded, chipped and forgotten to time.

One currently on the brink is the El Dorado Family Entertainment Centre, which has an arcade and a private members bar beside it.

Purnachand Ankem, who’s known locally as Kish, moved to Jaywick less than two years ago and is now opening his business nearly two hours later to reduce his outgoings.

“It’s cost-effective for us to open at 11am because every machine has to be on and they all run on electricity,” the 40-year-old said. 

“Our bills have gone up by 25 per cent, which is huge, and we’re not making any profit. We don’t know what else to do and there’s a huge question mark over our business.

“We’re really struggling and have suffered. Everyone is asking for a salary increase too but we can’t afford it and may have to close the business if we did. 

“The people of Jaywick are very good, we appreciate them and know we wouldn’t survive as a small business without them.”

'Locals blame us for food price hike'

Denis Rotaru, 23, who works at his uncle’s corner shop, has noticed that it’s “really quiet” in the area, which he puts down to people not having money to spend in his seaside village.

The resident of nearly five years said: “There are a lot of people on benefits and they are not very happy when they see our prices going up.

“Some are angry with us but there’s nothing we can do. Everything is getting more expensive and it’s affecting business, shops and cafes everywhere in Jaywick.” 

Many are calling for greater assistance from the government – but fear their pleas will go unheard after years of trashing from reality TV shows.

Their reputation was further tarnished when a defender of then-President Donald Trump used an image of a rundown part of Jaywick in a poverty campaign.

The poster, which was made by politician Nick Stella, read: “Only YOU can stop this from becoming REALITY… Help President Trump keep America on track and thriving.”

But residents offer a different take. They speak of community spirit, generosity and how most of them would do anything to help a person in need.   

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One man, who didn’t want to be named, claimed the area’s bad press was due to councillors “promising change before election day and then spent f*** all money here”.

He added: “They need to make Jaywick look nice again. Of course, there are some very bad people here, like in every area, but that’s not us and it’s not who were are.”

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