Boost local economies to level up former coalfields, say MPs

Written by on 12th June 2023

A cross-party group of MPs representing the former coalfields is today publishing a report of its Inquiry into Next Steps in Levelling Up the Former Coalfields.

The Inquiry, initiated last November by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coalfield Communities, received more than 70 submissions from across England, Scotland and Wales, including from local authorities, the voluntary and community sector, and the Scottish and Welsh Governments.

At the forefront of the report’s recommendations is the need to boost local economies.  The report says that ‘trickle-down’ from the big cities is failing the former coalfields, which mostly cover smaller towns and communities.

With a combined population of 5.7 million – roughly the same as a typical English region and more than the whole of Scotland – the former coalfields are too big to ignore, says the report.  They include places of acute disadvantage, and though unemployment has fallen economic inactivity remains widespread.

The State of the Coalfields report for example, by academics at Sheffield Hallam University, found that the former coalfields have only 55 employee jobs per 100 residents of working age, compared to a national average of 73 and 84 in the main regional cities.

In addition to calling for stronger policies to grow the local economies of the former coalfields, the report calls for:

  • Investment in transport, particularly local rail
  • More high-quality apprenticeships
  • Monies returned to the Treasury to be used to fund small business units
  • Geothermal mine water to be investigated as a source of green energy
  • Longer-term levelling up funding, allocated by formula not bidding
  • A higher share of miners’ pension fund surpluses to go to retirees
  • UK Government funding for coal tip safety in Wales
  • A better deal for the coalfields from Lottery funding

Alex Davies-Jones MP (Labour, Pontypridd) and Chair of the APPG said:

“This report is a milestone in our efforts to level up the former coalfields.  We are delighted to have received such a wealth of evidence from stakeholders across the country and are confident that our proposals offer a vision for the next steps needed to rebuild our communities.

“The pit closures of the 1980s and 90s destroyed the economic base of too many places.  Picking up the pieces was never going to be easy.  There has been real progress but this has often been too slow.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to levelling up.  This now needs to be matched by actions based on our report’s recommendations.”

Aaron Bell MP (Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme) and a Vice Chair of the APPG, said:

“My constituency, like many others, has the potential not only to benefit from levelling up but also to contribute to the national economy.  It is important that the continuing challenges identified in the report are addressed and that the recommendations are acted upon.

“Residents of coalfield communities are rightly proud of their history and shared heritage.  They deserved to feel proud and hopeful about their future as well.”

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