12:00pm Wednesday 27th April 2005
Selby: The largest working coalfield in Britain is no more. At its peak, the Selby coalfield employed 3,500 miners and could produce 12 million tonnes of coal a year.
That all came to an end when Riccall Mine, the last of the Selby pits to produce coal, closed last October. The Coalfields Regeneration Trust has been helping redundant miners retrain, to develop new skills for new jobs. But the loss of more than 4,000 direct and indirect jobs has come as a blow to the area.
The coalfield was comparatively recent, however - mining only began there in 1983. So in some ways, the closure of the pits will see the constituency reverting to its past. The UK's largest coal-fired power station remains at Drax. Otherwise, the main industries have been agriculture and brewing.
As well as the town of Selby itself, the constituency includes the southern outskirts of York (in particular the York University campus and the Archbishop of York's Palace at Bishopthorpe) and a large agricultural hinterland.
Being largely rural, the constituency has traditionally been Conservative. That changed when Labour's John Grogan won the seat by a narrow 3,800 margin in 1997. He held it in 2001 with an even slimmer majority of 2,100. That makes it a key target seat for the Conservatives.
The Boundary Commission for England is recommending some changes to the constituency in future, which would see it lose the southern outskirts of York, for example, but absorb parts of the Harrogate constituency. Those changes will not take place until the next election, however.
:: The issues in Selby
- Colin Wallwork, chairman of Selby Chamber of Trade
Business rates are too high, Colin says - and he is sick of 'stealth taxes'.
Many people would prefer to see politicians being honest about taxes, and saying up front they would put an extra 1p on income tax rather than for example increasing duty on petrol. He would also like to see a reduction in the red tape which hampers small businesses.
Investment in the district must continue, both to help job creation following closure of the Selby coalfield and to improve transport links.
- Bill Farman, who lives in Gateforth and is treasurer of Selby United Charities
Transport is always an issue in rural areas, Bill says. There are families in rural parts of the Selby area who don't have access to a car: which makes travelling to find work very difficult. He would like to see more innovative transport initiatives, such as the loaning of mopeds to allow young people to get to and from work.
He is not convinced that the closure of the Selby coalfield has had the impact on the constituency many claim. Many of the miners have returned to Wakefield and Castleford from whence they came, he says. But rural incomes are a problem, especially given high property prices. Many farmers and farm workers are experiencing real financial difficulties, he says.
- Jane Dutton, chief executive of the Riccall Regen Centre
In many ways, Selby after the coalfield will be a return to the Selby of the past, Jane says. There is still a good deal of anger about what happened to the mines. Investment is now needed to help attract other industries and other sources of employment to help with the region's renaissance. And it is vital that social enterprises such as the Regen Centre and other voluntary and community organisations working in the district to provide training and employment opportunities should continue to be funded properly, says Jade. A proper public transport system to enable people to travel in search of employment is also vital.
MP since 2001: John Grogan, Labour.
Labour majority at last election: 2,138
Candidates for May 5 2005:
John Grogan - Labour
Mark Menzies - Conservative
Ian Cuthbertson - Liberal Democrat
:: Ryedale: This huge rural constituency stretches from the boundaries of York in the south to the North York Moors in the north and the North Sea coast at Filey.
A largely agricultural area, Ryedale is slowly recovering from the ravages of foot and mouth and remains a generally pleasant and prosperous area in which to live. It boasts some of the most beautiful and unspoilt scenery in the country.
As befits a rural constituency, it is naturally Conservative. That natural order was briefly overturned in 1986 when, following the death of sitting Tory MP John Soence the Liberals' Elizabeth Shields overturned a 16,000 majority to win by 5,000 votes.
The natural order was resumed in 1987, however, when John Greenway regained the seat for the Conservatives. He has been MP ever since, enjoying a majority of a little below 5,000 in 2001.
Industry is mainly agriculture and tourism, although there is some light industry in towns such as Malton.
Almost half the population is aged 45 or over, unemployment is low, three-quarters of constituents are owner-occupiers and there is only a small council rented sector. A sizeable number of constituents commute to nearby York.
The constituency boasts Rievaulx Abbey and Castle Howard among its attractions, and there is a thoroughbred racehorse training centre at Malton.
Ryedale is also home to the Catholic public school, Ampleforth.
:: The issues in Ryedale
- Simon Thackray, director of The Shed
A proper public transport system and properly-maintained roads and footpaths are high on Simon's list of priorities. "And in the winter we need salt," he says. "Not weapons grade plutonium, just plain salt. The fact that school bus routes are not considered a priority when salting roads is a disgrace."
He would like to see a "Use It or Lose It" country code.
"Use it, and protect the local post office. Use it, and help sustain your local shop. Drink in the pub, party in the village hall (village halls are cool!). Shop locally and buy the 'big stuff' online and give the Ryedale supermarkets some healthy competition!"
- The Rev John Manchester, Canon of Old Malton
Affordable housing is top of the Rev Manchester's list of priorities. Young people can no longer afford to live in their own communities, he says. And there should be a re-think on public transport.
"We seem to have buses, but people don't use them. They need to be at the right time and in the right place."
A more flexible system, where passengers could be picked up and dropped off almost anywhere on route, would help, he says. He would also like to see more facilities for young people. Rural people feel their concerns are not well understood by policymakers in Westminster. That goes beyond hunting, he says. "We feel the things we have always known and loved are being undermined."
- Rob Salkeld of Ryedale Forum for Older People
Older people form a large proportion of the population in Ryedale. In such a large rural area, many of them suffer from social isolation. Better public transport would be one way of addressing that, says Rob. He would also like to see more facilities and activities for older people throughout the area.
Rural poverty is another issue. Ryedale, with all its four-wheel-drive cars, may seem prosperous. But that is not always the case. Many elderly people are not coming forward to claims all the benefits to which they are entitled.
MP since 2001: John Greenway, Conservative
Conservative majority at the last election: 4,875
Candidates for May 5 2005:
John Greenway - Conservative
Gordon Beever - Liberal Democrat
Paul Blanchard - Labour
Stephen Feaster - UKIP
John Clark - Liberal
:: Vale of York: Another large, mainly rural constituency to the north of York. The Vale of York was a new seat created in the 1995 boundary review.
It consists mainly of a large, flat expanse of fertile farmland that stretches northwards from York.
The constituency also includes the northern outskirts of York and the eastern fringes of Harrogate district.
There are a number of prosperous market towns within the constituency, the principal ones being Easingwold, Thirsk and Boroughbridge. Although mainly agricultural, there is light industry around Thirsk.
The constituency is prime commuter country and has a high proportion of part-time and home workers and self-employed people. It also contains a large air force base at Linton-on-Ouse, one of the RAF's principal flying training centres.
Like Ryedale, the Vale of York has been strongly Conservative. Anne McIntosh, the former MEP who won the new Vale of York seat in 1997 and has held it ever since, had a comfortable majority of 12,500 in 2001.
Whoever is elected this time, however, will be the last Vale of York MP.
This relatively new constituency is set to disappear in the next boundary review. It will be divided between its neighbours, with part going to Ryedale, part to Harrogate, part to Richmond, part to Selby and part to Skipton and Ripon.
:: The issues in the Vale of York
- Anti-pylons campaigner Rosalind Craven
It is not only pylons that concern Rosalind, who lives near Huby, wind turbines do as well. She feels the vale could be in for more than its fair share. As well as being ugly they won't be solve our power needs, she adds.
She also singles out public transport as a serious issue. And farming is in turmoil, she says, with changes to the subsidy systems. The drawn-out process of registering farms under the new system is causing "extreme stress", she says.
- Derrick Jauncey, chairman of Linton-on-Ouse parish council
Affordable housing is a real problem, says Derrick. Many civilian workers at RAF Linton cannot afford to live in the village and have to travel considerable distances to work. He would also like to see more police, and a joined-up approach to dealing with rural young people who, through boredom and lack of opportunity, turn to petty vandalism. There should be more positive action to provide opportunities and things to do, Derrick says. He would like to see new thinking on rural transport, too, so constituents didn't have to keep changing buses to make the short journey into York.
- David Campbell, MD of Alne-based Direct Farming and Rural Solutions
Farming incomes are a major problem, David says. Farming subsidies are no longer linked to production, so farmers are not subsidised to produce cheap food. That is something members of the public, with their constant demand for cheap food, must realise. "The consumer is not paying enough," says David. The result: many people in rural areas are living on incomes well below what most people enjoy.
Rural schools with falling numbers are another problem, as is rural crime.
He would like to see fewer policemen wasting time on paperwork and more officers back out in the community.
Vale of York facts:
MP since 2001: Anne McIntosh, Conservative
Conservative majority at the last election: 12,517
Candidates for May 5 2005:
Anne McIntosh - Conservative
David Scott - Labour
Jeremy Wilcock - Liberal Democrat
Updated: 11:00 Wednesday, April 27, 2005
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