Miners' strike 40 years on: East Durham pit workers accuse successive governments of 'levelling down, not up'

28 February 2024, 14:53 | Updated: 28 February 2024, 16:20

Former Miner Steve Fergus (left) and Easington Colliery's Front Street, 40 years on from the miners' strike (right)
Former Miner Steve Fergus (left) and Easington Colliery's Front Street, 40 years on from the miners' strike (right). Picture: LBC

By Chantalle Edmunds

On the 40th anniversary of the miners' strike, former pit workers in Easington Colliery have called for mass investment and job creation along the East Durham coast.

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Once the employer of 3,500 miners and the backdrop for parts of the Billy Elliot movie, Easington Colliery, and neighbouring Horden, had two bids for levelling up funding turned down in 2023.

The plans would have seen new social housing created along with a nature reserve and woodland plantation.

Ex-miner Steve Fergus worked at the Easington Colliery pit right until it was mothballed in 1993.

"We’ve never recovered, you’ve only got to look at the Front Street, there’s nothing there, nothing at all," he said.

"Pizza shops and gambling places, what’s that for the young people today? Where’s their hope for their future?

"The East Durham Coast has no buildings, no infrastructure, no decent housing and no work. Everybody has moved. The people that’s left are us elderly people.

"In terms of central government, we hear a lot about levelling up. I know parts of this region have applied for funding and it hasn’t come through. Where’s the money at? We’re not getting any.

"So levelling up, waste of time. It’s levelling down. All they are doing is putting their thumb onto us and keeping us where we are."

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Steve Fergus - Former Miner
Steve Fergus - Former Miner. Picture: LBC

The miners’ strike lasted from March 6, 1984 to March 3, 1985 and in Easington Colliery a week longer. 

It saw workers walk out in a bid to prevent colliery closures.

General Secretary of the North East area of the National Union of Miners, Alan Mardghum, said the mining community has remained very resilient but the area is still waiting for significant regeneration, 40 years on.

"There’s been massive problems in some of the core mining areas; poverty, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and all these things around lack of investment in the area," he said.

"I just think the time is overdue when there was mass investment in areas like the North East of England, the former industrial areas, because the current model just isn’t working and we’re seeing despair among young people."

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has yet to respond to LBC's request for a statement regarding former miners' levelling down claims.

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