Miners say the government’s decision not to grant state aid funding to extend the life of Kellingley Colliery is a ‘massive kick in the teeth.’
In a written statement to parliament Matthew Hancock, business secretary, said a £338m state aid funding bid to keep Kellingley and Hatfield collieries open for another three years was “not affordable and does not represent value for money to the taxpayer.”
The announcement means the UK Coal pit will close by the end of the year as part of a £4m ‘managed closure’ plan already agreed.
Keith Hartshorne, National Union of Mineworkers delegate at Kellingley, said: “This announcement is a massive kick in the teeth. The government has been sat on these state aid applications for far too long and they knew by doing that the cost to save the pit would increase by £750,000 per week.
“Leaving it to the very last day of parliament just stinks and to just produce a written statement where the minister can’t be questioned sums it all up.”
UK Coal first announced plans to close the pit in April and a planned workforce buyout fell through in July.
In September, the company secured the ‘managed closure’ deal to ensure gradual job losses.
One state aid application would have seen the pit remain open until 2018 and another would have helped provide further funding for the closure of the business including the retraining of the miners.
Mr Hartshorne added: “We could understand if the country decided that it was no longer going to burn coal to produce electricity but we are still importing 40 million tonnes of coal every year. It just doesn’t make sense.
“This is the end of the industry and that has, in no way, been caused by the miners themselves. They have been persecuted for more than 30 years and the country should hang their heads in shame for allowing that to happen.”
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper, who had urged the government to grant funding, said she would continue to help the workers and their families.
She said: “I’m bitterly disappointed that the government has decided not to support any state aid for Kellingley at all. This means over 600 skilled men and women are set to lose their jobs. It’s a massive blow to everyone after all the campaigning and work we’ve done to try and persuade ministers to help.
“Yet at every point ministers have dragged their feet and we’ve seen deliberate government delays and misinformation that have made it much harder and more costly to keep the pits open.”
Knottingley Coun Graham Stokes said: “This is the end of an era and of course the closure of Kellingley Colliery will have an impact on the Knottingley community and the many families who have relied on the industry to provide a good standard of living, those jobs will now not be there, whilst we as a council will work hard to bring in replacement jobs it will be difficult to replicate what we have lost.”