Funding for the coalfields has been lauded by the government as a stunning transformation of old mining communities through free-market activity allied with government nous. But buried in amongst the back-slapping are figures which show the ex-miners themselves have been left in the cold while the wealthy profit around them
Despite massive investment in mining communities damaged by Thatcher’s victory in 1984 and with winding down of coal mining in the 1990s, the money has gone not to local workers but to regeneration groups and businesses, according to a new report.
Analysis by the Audit Commission of the old coalfields has found that while construction work and job numbers have risen in these areas at faster rates than the national average, local people have not significantly benefitted from the changes.
While the report praised an influx of national and European money which has poured into the areas over the last ten years, halving the amount of derelict land and improving employment rates, as well as significantly improving local housing stock, it noted: “Absolute levels of educational attainment, adult skills, life expectancy, income deprivation and crime have improved, but inequalities persist.
“The gap between these areas and the rest of the country widened and many coalfields remain among the most deprived areas in England.
“Jobs have been created but are increasingly being taken by people moving or travelling into coalfield areas, while unemployment persists in local communities.
“Many coalfield residents are jobless and face significant barriers to returning to work. These include health problems, poor skills and lack of motivation. This is no longer restricted to the older generations who were originally affected by pit closures.
“Jobs continue to be created but councils face diminishing returns for their efforts as these jobs are increasingly taken by new people moving or travelling into the area to work.”
As the economy falters, the Commission has warned that funding is likely to fall for the old coal-mining fields, ending the public spending bonanza which many companies have taken advantage of, but leaving the towns’ working classes no better off than before.
Between 1981 and 1993, 135,000 manufacturing and 170,000 mining jobs were lost, offset only to a limited extent by growth in services and public sector employment. Overall there were 150,000 fewer jobs in 1993 than in 1981.
As a result, there was a large-scale exodus of people under the age of 45 out of the coalfields looking for work. However as funding in construction and the public sector in particular rose, an influx of new workers has left unemployment of the ex-miners in dire straights, with many being moved ‘off the books’ into incapacity benefits and unemployment on average still some 2.8% worse than national rates.
From Freedom anarchist newspaper