Coalfields need years to recover

MP Mick Clapham is backing a campaign to protect workers' backs
MP Mick Clapham is backing a campaign to protect workers' backs
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IT will take a generation before South Yorkshire’s coalfield communities get back on their feet, an expert said today.

Ministers have agreed to give the Coalfields Regeneration Trust £30m over the next two years after a review by former coal miner and Barnsley MP Michael Clapham called for continued investment.

Mr Clapham welcomed the announcement and believes the government has also set aside an additional £22m to fund coalfield regeneration up until 2015.

However, Mr Clapham told The Star mining communities will need further support from central government for many years beyond 2015.

He said: “My view is that anybody who believed coalfield areas would be back on their feet in 10 years is living in cloud cuckoo land - it will take a generation.

“In coalfield areas there is no history of entrepreneurship.”

He highlighted research from 2009 by the Improvement and Development Agency, which said coalfield areas were hit by a ‘double jeopardy’ of high levels of illness among both former miners as well as the subsequent generation who were forced to take menial jobs after the coal industry collapsed.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said the latest government cash injection would go ‘directly to improving the lives and well-being of some of the most deprived communities in the country’.

He said it was unacceptable coalfield communities remained ‘plagued’ by deprivation and fragile economies despite hundreds of millions spent on regeneration efforts.

However, Labour’s shadow communities secretary and Don Valley MP Caroline Flint said despite the investment, funding for the coalfields had been cut by 15 per cent.

She said: “The Tory-led government doesn’t want to admit coalfield communities are still recovering from the damage inflicted in the 1980s.”

Her comments were in contrast to former housing minister and Wentworth MP John Healey, who welcomed the government’s continued investment.

He said: “I am pleased the government is not turning its back on the coalfields, as the Tory government of the 1980s and 1990s did.”

The decline of the coal industry had a devastating impact in Yorkshire.

A total of 54 collieries closed since 1984 in Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster, Wakefield, Selby, Leeds and Kirklees.