Headlines: March 10th, 2010

A report from a group of MPs is questioning whether Government initiatives to regenerate former coalfield communities are working. Members of the Public Accounts Committee say 13 years after the schemes began, the Department for Communities and Local Government still lacks a clear vision for the regeneration.

The committee’s chairman, the Conservative MP Edward Leigh said it was extremely doubtful that the initiatives were achieving value for money. He accepted, however, that the challenge of regenerating the areas was an enormous one. Since 1981 more than 120 pits had closed, leaving a legacy of derelict land some of which was highly contaminated and in areas with low economic potential and high unemployment allied with a weak culture of enterprise.

Mr. Leigh added: “Despite spending 630 million pounds so far, and 13 years after the launch of the initiatives, the Department still does not really know what improvement it has made to the lives of the people living in these areas.”

The report, published today, says that reviving the former English coalfields is one of the largest regeneration challenges to face the country over the last 30 years. As at July last year the three initiatives had brought 54 former coalfield sites back into working use and enabled private development of 2,700 houses and 1.1 million square metres of employment space. They had also given financial support to around 3,000 community projects.

The MPs say they have serious concerns about the value for money of the initiatives and that the Department does not know what improvement they have made because it does not have a robust assessment framework to establish the true number of additional jobs created.