MPs call for support for former coal mining towns

Former mining'‹ '‹towns and villages'‹ need more support'‹ following years of chronic '‹under-investment since the closure of the pits'‹, MPs will be told on Tuesday.

Peter McNestry, chair of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust
Peter McNestry, chair of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust​, which has ​support from more than 40 cross-party MPs​ including 12 from Yorkshire, will ​outline the ongoing challenges​ ​that face ​coalfield communities at a reception in Westminster​ on February 27.

​The trust​ said it will set out a clear case for additiona​l ​support to address three priorities for action​ -​ employment​,​ skills and health​.

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​I​t​ will use the reception to set out ambitious​ ​plans to return the communities to the thriving towns and villages they once were.

Andy Lock, ​h​ead of ​o​perations (England) for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust​, said: “We​ ​know that there are still challenges in the coalfield regions and they lag behind on many of the​ ​national indices. However, we know with the right investment a positive difference can be made.”

“As an example, from the State of the Coalfields Report, we can see that 42 per cent of neighbourhoods in​ ​Yorkshire fall into the 30​ per cent​ most deprived in the UK. In addition to this, 21​ per cent​ of residents have no​ ​formal qualifications, way behind the national average of 15​ per cent​.

“This is why we are calling upon the support of MPs, as it is essential we carry on our work together​ ​as we tackle the ongoing issues and ensure coalfield communities do not continue to be left behind.”

A dozen Yorkshire MPs have shown ​their ​support ​for​ the Coalfields Regeneration Trust by signing its pledge book which​ ​states: “I pledge my support to the work of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust in delivering against its​ ​objectives to make a lasting and positive impact on the employment, skills and health of residents in​ ​former mining towns and villages”.

The Yorkshire MPs include ​Hilary Benn (Leeds Central), Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford), Dame Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell), Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty), Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central), John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne), Alex Sobel (Leeds North),

Mary Creagh (Wakefield), Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) and Kevin Barron (Rother Valley).

Conor McGinn, Labour M​P for St Helens North​, said: “Former coalfield communities up and down​ ​the country like the ones I represent in St Helens have seen chronic​​ under-investment in​ ​employment, skills and health since the closure of the pits.

“Now that economic growth has returned, it is more important than ever to support our coalfield​ ​communities so that high skilled and well-paying jobs are available and health and well being are​ ​prioritised.”

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust will explain how its Coalfield Investment Fund proposition will​ ​work.

​​The funds would be used to develop new industrial space to support SME growth in former mining​ ​areas and on completion bring an estimated 1,000 jobs to the coalfields over the next five years.

As a result of these developments, over a 25-year period, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust ​said it will​ produce £50m in sustainable income which will be used to support social impact projects creating a​ ​well-being value of over £500m in the communities and a lasting legacy for the next generation.

An annual income stream of £2m w​ill​ be directed into social impact projects in the communities ​to get 400 people back into work​ and give 5,000 people new skills​. The trust also hopes to ​​get 8,000 people​ ​taking part in activities t​o improve ​their ​health.

Chief ​e​xecutive of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Gary Ellis​,​ ​said: “I would like to take this​ ​opportunity to thank every MP across the country who signed our pledge book.

​"​It gives us a​ ​renewed focus and confidence that we can and will make a lasting and positive contribution to these​​communities. We cannot achieve this alone and call on support from key stakeholders such as the​ ​LEP’s and local authorities to work with us to deliver our aspiration.

“We see the coalfields as areas of opportunity and by redirecting investment we are confident that we can stimulate new economic growth.”

Research by Sheffield Hallam University revealed that one in seven adults in coalfield communities are on out of work benefits.

Nearly 8 per cent of the community report "bad or very bad" general health.

The research also found that there are just 50 jobs in coalfield communities for every 100 adults. In London this figure is 79 per 100 and in the UK generally it is 67 per 100.