Deprivation, health and unemployment continue to blight Yorkshire’s coalfield communities, a quarter of a century after the collapse of the mining industry.
A new report, commissioned by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT), said the job losses that followed in the wake of the 1984/5 Miners’ Strike were still part of the everyday economic reality of most mining communities, and the consequences are still “all too visible” in statistics on unemployment, benefits and health.
Researchers from Sheffield Hallam University compared former mining areas with the rest of the country and concluded there was still a “compelling case” for continued support.
The CRT, which has handed out £220m to coalfield communities over 15 years, will see its Government funding end next April, but will continue self-financed. But chief executive Gary Ellis said it was “simply not resourced” to tackle to deep seated social and economic problems suffered in some former mining areas.In Yorkshire’s coalfield communities there were just 55 jobs for every 100 people in 2012 - less than the national average of 67.
The number of people suffering bad or very bad health was also higher than average at 7.4 per cent. Nationally, the figure is 4.3 per cent. Poor health is underlined by the numbers claiming Disability Living Allowance, which in August 2013, was 7.6 per cent. Overall, 42 per cent of coalfield neighbourhoods in the region are among the most deprived 30 per cent in Britain.
Before the recession, which hit deprived areas disproportionately hard, the report said, there had been “real progress” in rebuilding the coalfield economy.
But since 2010, voluntary and community organisations in the coalfields have been driven “into crisis” through cuts.
Peter McNestry, chair of the CRT said: “The tough reality for coalfields residents is that these problems will not go away overnight,” he said. “It’s not something we can do on our own”
Former Barnsley West and Penistone MP Michael Clapham, whose 2010 report showed coalfield communities were a “special case” for continued investment, said the new report showed the situation had got “even worse”, and that investment was needed to create jobs.
The Clapham report said that local authorities should lead the next stage of regeneration, but they “are no longer in a position financially to play a role in regeneration,” he said. “We need to find a new way to help people.”
Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett, whose constituency is made up of former mining towns and villages, called on the Government to continue funding CRT.
He said: “The job isn’t done. For some of the young people, their only aspiration is to move out of the area.”
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said it had given over £100m to support the Trust since 1999. He added that its self-financing plan gave it “an opportunity to concentrate on the areas where they really add value.”