July 1: What is the UK’s energy policy?

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THE end is nigh. With Hatfield Colliery ceasing production with immediate effect, and closure plans already in place for Kellingley Colliery, it is now only a matter of time before the last coal is seamed from Yorkshire’s world-famous deep mines which found themselves at the vanguard of Britain’s energy policy for so long.

A number of factors, not least an abundance of coal in global markets and non-competitive carbon taxes introduced by the last Labour government when Ed Miliband, Hatfield’s local MP, was ironically Energy and Climate Change Secretary, precipitated the announcement that will lead to 428 miners and support staff losing their jobs prematurely.

The challenge facing Ministers is to ensure there is sufficient support for redundant miners as they seek alternative work, and that due consideration is given 
to those firms in the supply chain who face an equally uncertain future in an area of above-average unemployment.

It also comes when Britain’s energy and industrial policy is at a crossroads. For, while the Government will argue that it could no longer afford to subsidise loss-making mines, this is at odds with the generous financial concessions which were made to the onshore wind industry before Ministers signalled their intention to halt such payments.

And the double standards do not end here. The demise of Yorkshire’s last remaining deep mines will, inevitably, undermine plans to put this county at the vanguard of a clean-coal revolution that could have assisted other high-polluting manufacturing industries struggling to meet environmental obligations. It also comes at a time when Britain is supposed to be striving for greater energy security so the UK is less reliant on imports from countries like Russia. As such, the need for a clear and coherent energy policy has never been greater.

Making work pay

Living Wage should be embraced

GEORGE OSBORNE was quick to hail the better-than-expected increase in GDP in the first quarter of 2015, and resulting upturn in consumer confidence as a result of low inflation and rise in wages, as a vindication of the Government’s economic strategy ahead of next week’s emergency Budget.

Yet, while the corresponding increase in tax receipts will provide the Chancellor with some much-needed wriggle room when it comes to the next tranche of public sector spending cuts, Mr Osborne cannot escape the fact the GDP boost of 0.4 per cent is only fractionally better than forecasts and still less than the growth registered in the final three months of 2014.

Complacency is not an option, despite the significant upturn in business investment that stands in stark contrast to the economic turmoil in Greece. The full benefits of the economic recovery underway in London and the South East have still to reach the North. Unlike the capital, a significant proportion of the workforce is being paid the minimum wage, according to the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has published new research today highlighting continuing concerns about living standards, and how the political rhetoric is invariably at odds with the everyday experience of families.

As such, Mr Osborne should use this Budget to encourage even more employers to recognise and reward the endeavour of staff by embracing the living wage which is more indicative of household costs. Such a move would demonstrate – ahead of the next welfare cuts – that the Tories are also the new party of working people.

Back to basics

Morrisons makes its move at last

AFTER NEARLY four years of decline, the increased market share for Bradford-based retail giant Morrisons is even more meritorious because it came at a time when there was a slight fall in supermarket sales. This reversal of fortune should be widely welcomed – the store remains synonymous with Yorkshire and its decline caused much angst to those loyal to its founding father Sir Ken Morrison.

It also justifies the “back to basics” strategy being pursued by chief executive David Potts after Morrisons narrowly avoided an embarrassing relegation to the FTSE 250. As well as a competitive online service, he knows that customers place a premium on locally-sourced produce, outstanding value for money and customer service to match. Yet, while it is taking some stores longer to achieve these three basic principles of grocery, all the signs are that Morrisons is back in business. It is just a shame it took so long when the firm’s problems were so obvious to so many.