LONG-TERM inequalities that linger in ex-coalfield communities such as Barnsley will be looked at in a ground-breaking new inquiry which aims to finally restore parity, MPs have revealed.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coalfield Communities - which has received support from Barnsley MPs - was launched this week and aims to work out what still needs to be done to regenerate mining towns.

It hopes to find out if job losses from the coal industry have been fully replaced, if pollution from mines has been rectified and if the needs of former miners are being met.

Although progress has been made to regenerate former coalfield communities, they still lag behind on most indicators of prosperity and wellbeing, MPs believe, and the government’s promise to ‘level up’ towns such as Barnsley have failed to come to fruition.

Barnsley lost out in the first funding round last October - and was the only place in South Yorkshire not to be awarded any cash - but bids totalling £26.2m were submitted for consideration in the second round.

In Text Promo Image

Alex Davies-Jones, chair of the group, said: “The loss of the coal industry removed the economic and social heart of our communities.

“Unfortunately, recovery has too often been slow and partial.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to levelling up but fine words need to be matched by action on the ground.

“We want to use this inquiry to make sure that the distinctive needs of our former coalfield communities are properly addressed.”

The inquiry - backed by Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis and Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock - has also received support from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.

The trust originated in Barnsley in 1999 to assist ex-mining towns, which often saw low levels of health, employment and education.

Today, they continue to offer support to all former coalfields across England, offering funding, practical help and education and employment to those living in areas in need of an uplift in available opportunities.

“The trust have been so important to so many local businesses, not just in Barnsley but in coalfields across the country to support as many people as possible,” Stephanie added.

“Though the idea of ‘levelling up’ is welcome in principle, it means nothing if places like Barnsley are being left even worse off than before.

“We need to change the settlement of our country back in favour of those who built it.

“This means providing enough funding in Barnsley to ensure good jobs are available, high streets and businesses can thrive, houses are affordable and the streets are safe from rampant antisocial behaviour.

“Until we see these changes on the ground, levelling up will continue to be no more than a token phrase.”