North East ex-miners have fuel entitlement cut

Hundreds of ex-miners from across the North East have been dealt a second blow after being stripped of their fuel entitlement

Former workers were given concessionary fuel as part of their severance packages from the mines if they retired after privatisation in 1994.

But, following the collapse of UK Coal in July, hundreds of long-serving miners and their families have been told they will no longer be entitled to the fuel concession.

The supplies are being stopped by administrators BDO who have overseen the restructuring of UK Coal to save 2,000 jobs and enable the Pension Protection Fund to take over the company pension scheme, reducing retirement funds for some staff by 10%.

MP for Wansbeck and former miner Ian Lavery said the axing of free coal will cause unnecessary suffering to people, including many in Northumberland, who had relied on the supplies for their heating.

“Concessionary fuel is extremely important,” he said. “The Government has got a duty to ensure that people who are entitled to fuel under the Coal Industry Act receive what is in essence, deferred wages.

“This is not something miners became entitled to overnight; they got it after 15 years of slogging it out down the pits.”

Minister of State for Energy, Michael Fallon, has confirmed that as a result of UK Coal entering administration, former employees with historic concessionary fuel entitlements “are unlikely to have these met”.

Mr Lavery is due to meet with ministers on Thursday to discuss the prospect of restarting the supplies of fuel which are owed to thousands of workers up and down the country.

He said: “We’re looking at hundreds, possibly thousands, of North East miners, mainly from Northumberland, who are affected. It’s not right that this company is allowed to get away with this.

“Mr Fallon says he doesn’t want to burden the taxpayer, but I don’t believe the British taxpayer will have a problem with the Government picking up the part of hard-working people.

“Miners haven’t been on the best of wages but they’ve always had their concessionary fuel. They’re not asking for the world, just what they’re entitled to.”

UK Coal Mining was placed into administration on July 11, as a direct consequence of the administration of the wider UK Coal Group.

Graham Newton, BDO business restructuring partner and joint administrator for UK Coal Mining, said: “The company was reliant upon the funding and infrastructure provided by the UK Coal Group for the supply of the concessionary fuel benefit.

“Following commencement of administration, the Company had insufficient funds to provide the concessionary fuel benefit to employees, ex-employees, and employee spouses.

“Immediately following our appointment we contacted all concessionary fuel recipients in writing, and subsequently have sent further letters to ensure individuals understand the situation.

“Capita, who administered the benefit before the company entered administration, were appointed to assist the administrators and continue to respond to enquiries.

“We continue to liaise with relevant trade unions and members of Parliament to secure the best outcome possible for all creditors of the company, including former concessionary fuel recipients.”

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