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£100M TO HELP SAVE COAL MINES

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A£100m rescue package to save coal mines in Labour heartlands will be unveiled by the government this week, report...
A£100m rescue package to save coal mines in Labour heartlands will be unveiled by the government this week, reports The Guardian (p1).

The two-year subsidy, to be announced by Stephen Byers, trade and industry secretary, is intended to stave off colliery closures until after the next general election.

Only 17 deep mines are left, 13 of them owned by RJB mining, and nearly half are in trouble after a glut of coal on the world market sent import prices plummeting. Ministers are confident that the aid programme will save Ellington in Northumberland and Clipstone in Nottinghamshire after both were earmarked for closure.

They also hope it will improve the prospects of Hatfield and the Selby complex in Yorkshire, Longannet in Scotland and Betws and Tower in south Wales.

The European Commission must approve the package but ministers claim they have been told it will enjoy a 'fair wind'.

The news coincides with a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which reveals that coalfield commuinities remain blighted by widespread unemployment, long-term sickness and poverty (See LGCnet 17 April, COALFIELD COMMUNITIES 'STILL BLIGHTED 10 YEARS AFTER PIT CLOSURES').

The Financial Times (p3) reports that the charity's report finds little progress in achieving large-scale economic regeneration in former mining areas despite environmental improvements.

The report says 'persistent economic activity, poverty, and related problems' continue to characterise such communities.

It concludes that 'bottom-up' community initiatives are often limited because of inflexible requirements for partnership working, competitive bidding regimes and the difficulties in securing ongoing funding.

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