Temporary solution to Redcar closure on the table

Following the announcement that the Redcar steel plant was to close, a local paper has reported that an as-yet-unnamed company from the North East is making an eleventh hour bid to prevent its collapse.

On Monday, Thai owners SSI announced that 1,700 jobs will go at the site. The decision follows earlier revelations that the plant failed to repay its debts as it kept struggling with low steel prices.

The Northern Echo reports that the unnamed company would take control of the Redcar coke ovens, the bulk terminal port and other assets, to keep them functioning in the short term until a buyer could be found to restart iron and steelmaking when market conditions pick-up.

The Labour MP for Redcar, Anna Turley, who has been campaigning to prevent the closure, is reported to have said: “The fact this comes from a British company from the local area, who have a very good grasp of the situation, should give people confidence that it is a serious offer made by people who understand the industry and care about the future of steelmaking on Teesside.”

The new offer comes after Conservative MP James Wharton said the government had no intention of bailing out the Redcar steel plant or bringing it into public ownership.

The Stockton South MP, who was recently given responsibility for the "Northern Powerhouse" in the 2015 reshuffle, said that the government was not able to give financial aid to the ailing plant because it would be illegal under EU regulations.

"A loan or grant would be illegal under EU state aid rules," he said. "People sometimes point to the banking bailouts of the past and ask, 'If this is true, how have they received help?'

"At that time, a special exemption was made by the EU Commission because of the unique role banks have in the economy. Whatever the rights or wrongs, it was not against the law."

Speaking at the Labour conference on Tuesday, party leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that the government should do everything it can to keep the plant running, citing recent state aid given by the Italian government to a steel producer.

Wharton said that nationalising the facility was also not a viable solution due to hundreds of millions of pounds in losses since the factory opened in 2012 that would have to be covered by the taxpayer.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said the government should help the UK’s manufacturing industry for the ‘critical role’ it plays in the economy.

"It is my hope that the SSI plant executives with the union officials can find a way forward to retain the skills in the area and to maintain the facilities if it is deemed possible to resume production,” he said.

"I will try to do all I can as an advocate for workers and their families - and for the future of their community - at this difficult time."

In the past, steel from the plant has helped build the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Wembley Stadium and Canary Wharf in London.

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