Government rethink on coal concessionary fuel?
Will the Chancellor’s intervention reinstate coal cessionary fuel benefits for 1,600 former coal miners? Pensioners stand to lose either 4 tonnes of house coal delivered to their home a year, or about £550 cash in lieu tax free. After UK Coal’s collapse it looked as if hundreds of former coal industry employees were going to lose out on pension and concessionary fuel entitlements, and were facing a bleak future. The Energy Minister, Michael Fallon (written Parliamentary Answer, 16 October) confirmed that DECC has “no legal obligations” in relation to these company specific arrangements and has no plans to assume the additional liabilities involved. Pamela Ross, GMB Branch Equality Officer for the Yorkshire Coal Staff Branch brings us up to date:
After months of seemingly fruitless campaigning, conference calling, emailing MPs, talking with TUC, unions and union members all hope of continuing the concessionary fuel entitlement seemed lost. Pensioners could either receive 4 tonnes of house coal delivered to their home, or about £550 cash in lieu tax free.
For instance, What to say to the pensioner now, who had no option when coal was privatised but to continue working at the Selby Complex? Redundancy was not available for those needed to make it a going concern. A pensioner who had recently converted his new home to burn solid fuel as he knew he would be receiving concessionary fuel in his retirement? He wouldn’t receive this concession anymore, through no fault of his own. If he had retired with British Coal, he would.
Imagine my surprise therefore when watching local BBC lunchtime news on Monday 4 November to see my local MP asking a question in the House of Commons. Not just that, but the particular issue I had mentioned in a recent email to him – namely, the plight of UK Coal concessionaires! The Chancellor said:
I know that this difficult situation has been brought about by the failure of UK Coal. I congratulate my hon. Friend on leading this campaign to do something about the situation, and I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Sherwood (Mr Spencer) and for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) have joined him in coming to see me about it. We are looking very carefully at the case for what we can do to help those who have had their concessionary fuel allowance taken away because of the failure of UK Coal. I am personally looking at this case and I hope to have some good news shortly.
Now we have to hope that the news really is good, and the concessionaires will be able to keep warm this winter.
Pamela Ross is a former Deputy Chair of the Yorkshire Coal Taskforce Group. She is the GMB’s Branch Equality Officer for the Yorkshire Coal Staff Branch, and a delegate to GMB annual conference. She also blogged on CCS: