CAMPAIGNERS are leading a fight to defend East Durham against a savage onslaught of hardship – and turn communities back to their former glory.
Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) hopes to “turn the clock back” and “help our communities get back to the type of communities they were long before this Government got in”, says general secretary Dave Hopper.
The DMA has long supported East Durham miners and their families in trying times, not least mass unemployment following historic pit closures.
The only difference now is that the threats come in the form of a “tremendous attack” on benefits, including the bedroom tax, and a “myriad of social security problems”, says Mr Hopper.
The DMA is holding a public meeting called Crisis In Our Communities on Wednesday, August 7, from 5.30pm at Easington Social Welfare Hall, in Seaside Lane, Easington Colliery.
Mr Hopper said this is a bid to “get into our communities and find out what people’s problems are in these attacks on their benefits and the social wage”.
Representatives from Durham County Council and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation will also attend, and Easington MP Grahame Morris plans to be there.
Mr Hopper added he wants to help people claim benefits they are entitled to.
Mr Hopper said the DMA had not stepped in previously as “things were never as bad as they are today” and added: “We need to protect people’s standard of living, help people who haven’t put claims in previously, and cover the whole gambit of benefits and allowances.”
Bedroom tax is expected to have hit more than 1,600 families in East Durham, and latest figures show 3,159 people in the former Easington district claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance, which is 5.9 per cent of people in the area, placing it in the top seven North-East constituencies for joblessness.
“The situation in East Durham is absolutely horrendous. It’s got massive deprivation and problems in its community,” said Mr Hopper. “We are hoping we can be of some use to try to alleviate this position.”
He said kick-starting employment in the area is “a Government task” and that the DMA aims to apply pressure for more apprenticeships, including through campaigns from major trade unions and getting Easington MP Grahame Morris to lobby for more local work.
He said Government money could be spent on creating work rather than other schemes which have had no benefit, adding: “The Government is hell-bent on making people suffer. If we get a Labour Government, they need to take notice.” what we are doing now.”