Thursday, April 7, 2016

News: Council leader adds to calls for more support for steel

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The leader of Rotherham Council has reiterated the viability and importance of the South Yorkshire Tata Steel operations but adds that the steel industry requires the right support from the Government.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that the formal sale process for Tata's UK operations will begin by Monday April 11. A review of the European operations of Tata Steel has led to further uncertainty for steelworkers in Rotherham after the Indian-owned steelmaker concluded that it is exploring all options for portfolio restructuring including the potential sale of Tata Steel UK, in whole or in parts.

No timescales have been given but the company "has committed to providing sufficient time for the process to be completed."

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: "A number of people have already started coming forward and I think more will do so once the formal process begins.

"We're listening, we've worked on this for a while, and we want to work with any potential buyer to see how we can help. The government will do everything it can to find a viable, long-term solution for Port Talbot and British steel.

"Government stands ready to offer support to all potential buyers on various issues, including power, procurement and plant. The steel industry is currently dealing with unparalleled global economic conditions and the price of some steel almost halved in 2014."

Potential buyers will also have to deal with a huge pension pot.

The Government has been urged for years on creating a level playing field regarding the impact of high energy costs, business rates, EU emissions regulations, unfair trading practices in the EU and the procurement of UK steel.

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Rotherham hosted Anna Soubry MP The Minister of State (Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise) to provide an insight into the viability of Tata's world class speciality steels business in South Yorkshire.

Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "We met the Minister, Anna Soubry, in Rotherham to explain to her directly about the importance of steel to our local economy and our communities and to urge the government to take the actions needed to protect the future of the industry. The Rotherham and Stocksbridge Tata plants make high quality products for strategic sectors like aerospace, gas and oil. It is important that the government understands that the products made here will be in demand for many years to come, and the presence of Tata is important to our future in advanced manufacturing.

"The local plants have a strong business plan, and with the right support from the government and from Tata they will be in a strong position for the future. We want to see all sides move quickly now to ensure that production will continue and local jobs are safeguarded.

"We were also able to discuss the very difficult recent round of redundancies, and the support needed for people losing their jobs, including the possibility of further government funding to support longer term skills and retraining needs over the coming months."

Local MP, John Healey warned the Government of the big shortfall in business rates if the worst comes to the worst and the steelworks close.

The left-leaning thinktank, IPPR has estimated that Tata Steel UK's total closure could lead to a loss of up to 40,000 jobs including the supply chain, which could cost Government a total of £4.6bn in tax revenue and benefits and reduce household spending in the economy by £3bn, over ten years.

A report to the Sheffield City Region LEP last year described the strategic importance of Tata Steel to the Sheffield City Region, estimating that it has over 1,000 suppliers.

Since the Indian-owned firm announced a restructure last year that led to 500 job losses in Rotherham, a Strategic Taskforce was established and has been working on a joint action plan in a bid to secure a £9m package to help individual workers facing redundancy and supply chain businesses.

Secured funding has been used to provide one to one support and advice to 452 Tata employees; support 266 people with training packages to help them get new jobs; and support eight supply chain companies making a total of 138 redundancies.

Images: Rotherham Labour Group

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