Monday, January 23, 2017

News: National steel strategy would support Rotherham economy

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It may not employ the numbers it once did but Rotherham is still reliant on the steel industry and its value to the local economy should not be underestimated.

This week sees the All Party Parliamentary Group of Steel and Metal Related Industries publish its industrial strategy for steel - "Steel 2020: Forging a future for the British steel industry." The report lays out a blueprint industrial strategy for the UK steel industry that will enable it not only to survive, but to thrive.

Rotherham Council believes that Government support on technology development and clarity on future policy would help the world-class steel-making operations in the Sheffield city region.

The APPG includes the three Rotherham MPs and its inquiry took evidence from across the steel industry and its supply chain, and from the shop floor to the boardroom.

Steel 2020 contains 43 tangible policy recommendations to create a level playing field with an investment friendly environment created by the Government. The recommendations focus on much-debated issues such as energy prices, exports, procurement, business rates, supply chains, skills, R&D and union relations.

Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon and Chair of the Steel 2020 sub-committee, said: "The UK steel industry has been hamstrung by government policies that place our steel industry at a significant disadvantage, by comparison to global competitors. It is a testament to the professionalism, skill and dedication of the workforce that the industry has been able to keep pace and continue to innovate, but without radical and urgent policy action the industry, and the communities represented by the APPG, could be facing a future of perpetual crisis and decline.

"If we continue along the current path, characterised by a government whose attitude can best be described as a toxic combination of incompetence and indifference, we will see the further decline of the industry and our communities.

"However, as this report shows, another path is possible and achievable. With strategic action from government and the industry we can build a better future for the British steel industry, we can trigger a modern manufacturing renaissance, we can re-balance the British economy, and we can forge a new, more resilient, kind of growth."

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Rotherham Council provided written evidence for the report. The authority's response stated that national strategy for manufacturing and steel would support the local economy.

The Council said: "Rotherham is reliant on the steel industry and its value to the local economy should not be underestimated. However, whilst the industry has been hit hard over the past decades, in Rotherham, a restructuring of the steel industry into higher-value products and diversification has meant for example, until late, an upturn in the speciality arm of Tata.

"With further support on technology development and clarity on future policy, this trend could continue, developing a world-class steel industry, supplying high value manufacturing and boosting the UK's position as a technology-led economy.

"Locally, this opportunity to grow the sector and develop it further could stem the decline and impacts upon the local economy and in time offer growth for the industry, jobs for local people and increased spend in the local economy. Successful and profitable industry in turn links to the sense of place and pride in the borough that has been developed over so many years."

The report highlights the national importance of the Speciality Steels sites in South Yorkshire which produce aerospace steels for one in three aeroplanes in the world.

Rotherham Council's evidence also highlights the 420 companies in the Sheffield city region that are in Tata Steel's local supply chain, employing thousands of workers - from taxi firms to industrial services providers. It adds that the steel industry in the borough has a combined business rates bill of over £4m, with Tata Steel's multiple sites responsible for £3.1m per annum, of which 49% is currently retained by the Council.

Images: Tata Steel


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