Whatever happened to all those miners? Shocks and economic resilience

Where have all the miners gone? To judge by the rhetoric of the BBC and other Leftist media outlets, whole swathes of Britain lie devastated, plagued by rickets, unemployment and endemic poverty – nearly thirty years after the pit closures under Lady Thatcher!

The reality is different. There is indeed a small number of local authority areas where employment has never really recovered from the closures in the 1980s. But, equally, there are former mining areas which have prospered.

Thirty years ago, in 1983, there were 29 local authority areas in the UK, out of a total of over 450, in which mining accounted for more than 10 per cent of total employment. A mere handful of areas still remain scarred by the closures. Wansbeck, on the bleak Northumbrian coast, had 21 per cent of its jobs filled by mining in 1983.  Now, employment remains 25 per cent lower than it was then. Elsewhere, reality is not as bad as the image.

The old mining areas at the heads of the South Wales valleys are meant to symbolise industrial decay. But in Merthyr Tydfil, there are 8 per cent more jobs than there were in 1983.  Admittedly, in Blaenau Gwent, based on Ebbw Vale, employment is 12 per cent lower. This is hardly permanent devastation. In Easington on the Durham coast, miners made up no less than 41 per cent of all local employment. But even after this devastating blow, losing almost half the area’s jobs, employment now is only 9 per cent lower than it was in 1983.

In contrast, there are real success stories. North West Leicestershire and South Staffordshire used to have lots of miners. But employment in both areas is now some 40 per cent – forty! – higher than it was in 1983.

The experience of the individual mining areas differs dramatically in terms of their resilience, their ability to recover economically. Three years ago, I published a short article in Applied Economics Letters on the changes in employment in all the mining areas between 1983 and 2002. Total UK employment grew by 23 per cent, and in the ex-mining areas as a whole by just 9 per cent. But it was growth and not decline.

A key influence on this has been the attitude of the workers. Statistical analysis shows that the more militant an area was in the bitter and controversial miners’ strike in the winter of 1984/85, the less well it has done subsequently. In Leicestershire, one of the success stories, only 10 per cent ever supported the strike in the first place. In Wansbeck, support was 95 per cent, and even when the strike was ending rapidly in March 1985, 60 per cent were still out.

Economies have the capacity to recover from even the most dramatic adverse shocks, both at national and local levels. But to do this successfully, the workers must be willing to embrace the future rather than cling to the past.

Paul Ormerod

As published in City Am on Tuesday 16th April 2013

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e: aobyrne@volterra.co.uk
t: +44 020 8878 6333

Alex O’Byrne, Associate at Volterra, is an experienced economic consultant specialising in economic, health and social impact, economic strategy, project appraisal and socio-economic planning matters.

Alex has led the socio-economic and health assessments of some of the most high profile developments across the UK, including Battersea Power Station, Olympia London, London Resort, MSG Sphere and Westfield. He has significant experience inputting to EIAs and s106 discussions as well as drafting economic statements, employment and skills strategies and affordable workspace strategies.

Alex is also experienced at economic appraisal for infrastructure. He was project manager of the economic appraisal for the City Centre to Mangere Light Rail in Auckland. He also led the economic and financial appraisals of the third tranche of the Transport Access Program for Transport for New South Wales, in which Alex developed and employed innovative methodological approaches to better capture benefits for individuals with reduced mobility.

He is interested in the limitations of current appraisal methodologies and ways of improving economic and health analysis to ensure it is accessible to as many people as possible. To this end, Alex recognises the importance of transparent and simple to understand analysis and ensuring all work is supported by a robust narrative.

Alex holds a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Manchester and he was a member of the first cohort of the Mayor’s Infrastructure Young Professionals Panel.


Senior Partner

e: eevans@volterra.co.uk
t: +44 020 8878 6333

Ellie is a partner at Volterra, specialising in the economic impact of developments and proposals, and manages many of the company’s projects on economic impact, regeneration, transport and development.

With thirteen years experience at Volterra delivering high quality projects to clients across the public and private sector, Ellie has expertise in developing methods of estimating economic impact where complex issues exist with regards to deadweight, displacement and additionality.

Ellie has significant experience in estimating the economic impact across all types of property development including residential, leisure, office and mixed use schemes.

Project management of recent high profile schemes include the luxury hotel London Peninsula, Battersea Power Station and the Nova scheme at London Victoria. Ellie has also led studies across the country estimating the economic and regeneration impact of proposed transport investments, including studies on HS2 and Crossrail.

Ellie holds a degree in Mathematics and Economics from the University of Cambridge.