Headlines: November 27th, 2008

The regeneration of England’s former coalfields has been a success, according to the Audit Commission, but in a report today it says the social legacy of pit closures still lingers. The report calls on local councils to address problems including poor health and low skill levels.

The report, “’A Mine of Opportunities’” says local authorities deserve much of the credit for what has been achieved in a decade of regeneration work in areas afflicted by pit closures. In spite of the progress on greening mineworkings, building new homes, roads and commercial sites, and in creating jobs the Commission says some people have been left behind.

It says councils in the coalfields have to gear up to support people by addressing what it calls ‘endemic problems of bad health, poor school results, poor motivation and low skills.” Some councils, are tackling the issues but others have to follow suit. It also suggests that experience from the coalfields holds lessons for councils in other parts of the country faced with growing unemployment as firms lay off workers. It points to the need to act quickly to stop people becoming reliant on benefits.

The Commission says the job of regenerating the coalfields is not complete and that they are still the most deprived districts in England. There is still a need, today’s report says, for national support particularly in addressing health, education and barriers preventing people playing a full part in the labour market.

The report’s recommendations for areas in economic distress or facing decline include acting quickly when unemployment strikes; linking jobs and people with councils not seeing job creation as an end in itself; working with partners and involving local residents. Local people, it says, usually know best what will work for them.