FORMER mining communities in Barnsley which were ravaged by pit closures and have lagged behind economically ever since ‘deserve an apology’ from the government for the scars that remain.

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis and Barnsley East’s Stephanie Peacock spoke out to mark the 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike.

In ex-coalfields wages are below average, job growth lags behind the big cities and there are large numbers out of the labour market on benefits.

Dan said: “Forty years on the wounds from the miners’ strike still run as deep as the coal seams that once powered the world.

“It was a period of immense struggle, sacrifice and solidarity that is permanently etched in our collective memory.

“Thousands of ex-miners are still awaiting justice.

“They, their families and our communities deserve to know the truth.”

Grimethorpe, which possessed one of the deepest pits in Britain, saw 44 per cent of its residents lose their jobs and was once labelled as the country’s poorest village.

Its fortunes remained bleak for the forthcoming years, too - unemployment was regularly above 50 per cent for much of the 1990s and locals came together on Wednesday at New Options Gym, on St Luke’s Road, to show off memorabilia from its mining history.

Stephanie, whose constituency includes Grimethorpe, added: “This week marks 40 years since the miners’ strike began.

“Tens of thousands of men went on strike to defend their livelihoods against a government that branded them ‘the enemy within’.

“The strike devastated coalfield communities and decimated the industry that Barnsley was built on.

“The effects are still felt today, both through the economy, and through the thousands of retired miners suffering ill health as a result of their work and the long-standing injustice of miners’ pensions.

“The strike was a defining moment for Barnsley and it is right that we remember the strength and solidarity of striking miners and their families who faced immense hardship and, ultimately, the loss of their livelihoods.”

Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Chris Kitchen, called for the government to issue an apology.

He told the Chronicle: “I remember the strike very well despite only being 17.

“It was an attack from the Tories on coalfield communities and trade unions - a pre-meditated one - but every single person who stood up to that ought to feel proud.

“Unfortunately pit closures caused mass unemployment and poverty in villages which once powered the country but still the Tories continue to fail them 40 years on with a lack of investment and the ongoing dispute over miners’ pensions.

“Quite simply we deserve answers but most of all an apology.”

A report into the plight of communities, compiled by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, blasted the government for failing to ‘level up’ ex-pit villages decades on.

“The miners’ strike of 1984/85 is fading in popular memory, but the consequences of the upheaval caused by pit closures continue to be felt.

“Put simply, the former coalfields continue to lag behind on a range of social and economic indicators - fundamental imbalances in labour markets, social mobility and health persist.

“While many other parts of the country have prospered, most coalfield communities are failing to keep up.

“Many respondents identify the local economy as the central problem facing the former coalfields.

“Whilst substantial progress has been made and mass unemployment is no longer the main problem, the former coalfields still face significant economic challenges.

“As Barnsley Council put it, ‘the dominance of a single primary industry in the borough left us behind the starting line in the national structural shift towards a knowledge and service driven economy’.

“A common issue is a low skills base and limited availability of higher skilled, higher paying jobs.

“Levelling up remains a government priority of course, and one for which funding is in place until the next spending review due this year.

“Working out what should come next, and how it might benefit the former coalfields, is crucial to continuing the story of coalfield regeneration and helping communities to thrive.”