MPs to investigate the "national scandal" of left-behind coalfield communities

Politicians will investigate the "national scandal" of coalfield communities left behind by successive governments.

Yesterday the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coalfield Communities launched an inquiry into the next steps in Levelling Up coalfields in England, Scotland and Wales.

The group said that although there has been some progress in regenerating communities around coalfields, such as those in Yorkshire, on “most indicators” they still lag behind in prosperity and well-being.

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The report, which is expected to be published in the spring will cover the economy of Britain’s coalfield areas where once there were more than a million miners.

Colliery banners are carried through the city in DurhamColliery banners are carried through the city in Durham
Colliery banners are carried through the city in Durham

Dan Jarvis, the former mayor of South Yorkshire, told The Yorkshire Post: “The failure of successive Governments to properly invest in the North, to reduce regional inequality and to, more recently, ‘level up’ communities, is nothing short of a national scandal.

"Our region is brimming with talent and potential, but we need a long-term programme of investment into our regional economies; jobs, health, education, skills, transport, infrastructure and culture.

“It was enormously frustrating as South Yorkshire Mayor to see both the challenges and the opportunities we faced, but not to have the resources required to deliver transformative change.

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“I welcome this inquiry which will further shine the spotlight on the disproportionate deprivation in the North. I hope the Government finally listen to ensure Levelling Up funding is properly targeted to meet the needs of our communities in Yorkshire, but I’m not holding my breath.”

The inquiry will also look at the environmental legacy of coal mines, the needs of ex-miners and of younger people, the role of government funding, and the cultural heritage of the coal industry.

A 2019 study, The State of the Coalfields, by academics at Sheffield Hallam University, found that the former coalfields have only 55 employee jobs per 100 residents of working age, compared to a national average of 73.

It also pointed to average hourly earnings 8-10 per cent below the national average. More than a third of coalfield residents aged 16 or over report long-term health problems.

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Alex Davies-Jones, the Labour MP for Pontypridd and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group said: “The loss of the coal industry removed the economic and social heart of our communities.

“Unfortunately, recovery has too often been slow and partial.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to Levelling Up but fine words need to be matched by action on the ground. We want to use this inquiry to make sure that the distinctive needs of our former coalfield communities are properly addressed.”

Aaron Bell, the Conservative MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme and Vice Chair of the group said: “I’m delighted to be involved in this inquiry.

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“As a former coalfield area, my constituency has the potential to benefit immensely from Levelling Up and it is important that the challenges facing former coalfield communities are meaningfully addressed.

“I know how proud residents are of our shared heritage and, by listening to the needs of local areas, this inquiry offers the opportunity to build a better future.”

Earlier this month Alok Sharma, the COP26 President said that the Government should think again over plans to build a new coal mine in Cumbria.

He said that going ahead with the mine, which would be the first in a generation, would be bad for jobs and the climate.

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"What I would say to ministers, and frankly, I have said to ministers, is that you have to consider what are you going to get as a result of a decision to go ahead," he told POLITICO.

It is understood that planning ministers are considering the case and will make a decision by December 8.