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Gordon Banham gold

Last week news emerged that Hargreaves Services CEO Gordon Banham and Group Commercial Director Kevin Dougan pocketed £8.75 million between them through a sale of shares, supposedly for “long term tax planning” reasons. [1]

Campaigners and community activists in Scotland have slammed what they see as a return to the days when Scottish Coal shareholders took millions out of the business whilst coal sites went unrestored across Scotland, workers were regularly laid off and community benefit payments remained shockingly low.

We’re back to square one

Once again these industry fat-cats are making millions whilst communities in the Central Belt languish. We were promised big changes after the collapse of Scottish Coal and ATH resources, but there have been none – same company attitude, same impact on communities, same disregard for the workforce: different company name.

Despite assurances from the Scottish Government that there would be no cherry-picking of assets following the collapse of Scotland’s opencast industry, Hargreaves have been allowed to get away with minimal restoration commitments whilst selecting parts of sites deemed profitable enough. Further to this, Hargreaves are currently trying to scale back existing restoration obligations on sites they’ve so-far acquired, such as Netherton and Duncanziemere in Ayrshire and St Ninnians and Muir Dean in Fife, and insisting that someone else pays for the restoration work.

What is £8.75 million worth to communities?

It’s equivalent to 365 opencast jobs for a year [2] – in fact, Hargreaves said they’d be employing 300 former Scottish Coal workers by now, but have so far employed a maximum of 42. That’s 365 people that could be at work restoring opencast sites. What would £8.75 million mean for restoration? We estimate that for that amount they could fully restore one of at least 5 different abandoned Scottish Coal sites – for example Mainshill in South Lanarkshire, Powharnal in East Ayrshire or Blair House in Fife – creating employment along the way.”

How does £8.75 million compare to the community benefit payments begrudgingly doled out to communities? From 10 years of operations at Cauldhall in Midlothian, communities are set to get a grand total of £2.75 million, merely crumbs off the director’s table and no recompense for the damage to health, the noise and the danger on the roads that the mine will be responsible for.

Notes:

[1] Investis press release:
http://hsprod.investis.com/ir/hsp/ir.jsp?page=news-item&item=1623854120173568

[2] Based on average private sector income of £24,000 per annum in Scotland
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefingsAndFactsheets/S4/SB_12-75.pdf

[3] This figure is an estimate as no official details have been announced, and is derived from the latest Coal Authority data. Our figure is the difference between the total employment in Scotland at the end of June 2013, and the total employment at the end of September 2013, minus the one extra job in West Lothian at Banks’ Rusha Farm site. It is not clear that all of these extra 42 jobs are at Hargreaves sites, so 42 is an absolute maximum.

 

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