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Coalfield schemes a 'waste of money'

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Published Date: 18 March 2010
MILLIONS of charity cash given to former coalfield communities – including schemes across the Five Towns – has been branded a waste of money by MPs.
Almost £1.1 billion of public money has been committed to three initiatives devoted to regenerating closed pits and surrounding areas after the country's coalfields were shut down – axing 193,000 jobs.

High points include the transformation of Glass Houghton Colliery, Green Lane Industrial Park in Featherstone and the town's family employment initiative, as well as the funding of many community projects.

But last week the public accounts committee of MPs criticised efforts to breathe new life into collieries, saying they had 'serious concerns' that the schemes were achieving value for money and did not know how many jobs have been created.

Its highly critical report said 37 per cent of coalfield areas continued to be ranked among the most deprived in England despite spending £630 million.

It added: "We are concerned that public money has been invested to create jobs that would have been created anyway.

"While progress has been made, coalfield regeneration has cost the taxpayer much more than originally expected, and it has taken much longer than planned."

The Department for Communities and Local Government was also told to reassess the needs of coalfield areas in 2010 to obtain value for money from the remaining £450 million it has to spend.

However, regeneration minister Ian Austin said it was 'disappointing' the committee did not agree many former pits had been transformed.

He added: "Twenty-five years ago entire communities were devastated by the coal industry's collapse – now whole communities have been revived with almost 150,000 people getting new jobs or retraining.

"There is still more to do and we will continue to make sure all the funding brings new jobs and hope to communities."

The three initiatives developed by the government include the National Coalfields Programme, which decontaminates and aims to find new uses for coalfield sites.

The Coalfield Regeneration Trust charity improves the quality of life in former mining communities with jobs and project funding, while the Coalfield Enterprise Fund provides venture capital to small and medium sized enterprises.

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  • Last Updated: 23 March 2010 3:17 PM
  • Source: Ponte and Cas Express
  • Location: Pontefract & Castleford

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