Still feeling effect of pit closures

Easington MP Grahame Morris.
Easington MP Grahame Morris.

THE Government should do more to support former mining communities still feeling the effects of pit closures more than 25 years on says an MP.

Easington’s Member of Parliament, Grahame Morris, says there should be “targeted intervention” by Whitehall to help communities in places like East Durham recover.

His comments come after a new report found former coalfield communities have higher unemployment, greater health problems and more people claiming benefits than other parts of the country.

The State of the Coalfields report was commissioned by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University.

Mr Morris recently met with Business Secretary Vince Cable to make the case for investment for former coalfield communities.

He said: “There is huge regional disparity in unemployment between our region and the more affluent areas in the South and South East.

“We need some recognition from the Government that areas like East Durham and other coalfield areas face these particular challenges.

“We are doubly disadvantaged by geography and the loss of our traditional industries and need some direct intervention from the Government.

“This requires investment in education and training to provide the 21st Century skills required to compete in a global market.

“The economic recovery has yet to reach beyond London and the South East, but if we are to lead a national recovery we need to unlock and utilise the skills in Britain’s former industrial areas, which represent nearly a third of the population.”

Mr Morris said coalfield communities have some of the lowest proportion of jobs to working people at just 48 in the Durham area per 100 residents of working age.

Peter McNestry, chairman of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, said: “This report really brings home the scale of the deprivation that has been faced by 5.5 million people, more than Scotland’s total population.

“What’s more, these coalfields communities have had to endure this for well over a quarter of a century.

“The tough reality for coalfields residents is that these problems will not go away overnight.”