EXCLUSIVE: Labour bid to tempt mining communities with cross-departmental regeneration package
Labour has promised to rebuild Yorkshire’s mining communities with a raft of measures on jobs, education, and skills, if the party gains a majority in next month’s General Election.
Jon Trickett, Labour hopeful for Hemsworth and Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said places like Doncaster, Wakefield and Barnsley had been “held back for the last 40 years”.
He said: “People are angry and they have every right to be. The North-South divide is felt especially strongly here.”
And he said: "For more than a century, coal mining communities helped make our country one of the wealthiest in the world. I am proud to have represented such communities here in Yorkshire.
“The miners and their families stood by our country for more than a century. Labour will stand by them now. It is the right thing to do.”
Mr Trickett has drawn up Labour’s plan for coalfield communities, which focuses on areas such as jobs, pay, social security and education skills, and training - plus ending pension injustice for former miners.
Last week the party announced it would stop the Government taking 50 per cent of the surplus in the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme and introduce new sharing arrangements so that 10 per cent goes to government and 90 per cent stays with scheme members.
But the Government said members of the Mineworkers’ Pensions Scheme, which was set up after the privatisation of the coal industry in 1994, had received pensions 33 per cent larger than they would have if the Government was not a guarantor.
And Boris Johnson, on a visit to Mansfield recently, made a "categorical" pledge that miners will soon receive their fair share of the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme.
Mr Johnson said: “We will make sure that all their cash is fully protected and returned, I have looked into it and we will ensure that's done."
But now Mr Trickett, along with Labour Party Chair and a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers Ian Lavery, have launched a cross-departmental response to the social and economic issues affecting coalfield communities, highlighted in a report produced by Sheffield Hallam University earlier this year.
The report highlighted that, compared to the working age population, the number of jobs in the coalfields has grown at only a third of the rate of London.
The pair have pledged to create 40,000 jobs across Yorkshire, mostly in construction inn roles such as insulation specialists, plasterers, carpenters, electricians, gas engineers, builders and window fitters.
Some 8,500 of these would be in coalfield areas, with nearly 1,800 in Barnsley, more than 2,000 in Doncaster, nearly 2,000 in Rotherham and more than 2,500 in Wakefield.
They also say Labour policy of a Real Living Wage would help 140,000 people in these areas, and 160,000 people in the communities would benefit from scrapping Universal Credit.
Median hourly earnings in the coalfields are eight to 10 per cent below the national average.
And the Sheffield Hallam report highlighted that one in 12 of the entire population of the coalfields claim Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.
Mr Lavery, who met miners and their families in Rother Valley this week to announce Labour’s plans for the Miners’ Pension Scheme, said: “I started down the pit 40 years ago and remember how Thatcher attacked the coal, steel, and shipbuilding industries – and the communities who built them.
“The Tories who followed in her wake have turbo charged what she did. Boris Johnson’s support for his party’s cuts tell you everything you need to know about him.
“Our police, our schools and our NHS, slashed by people who don’t care about the public services that our communities depend on. And all to pay for handouts for their mates in the City of London.
“It’s Labour that will end the cuts, and scrap the Tories’ attempt to grab money out of former miners’ pension pots.”
Many former mining communities, including Wakefield and Doncaster, are included in the Conservatives’ Towns Fund, where areas could receive up to £25m for regeneration.