The Star Says: Steel industry may need a helping hand

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In a region as proud of its steel heritage as this one the current situation within the industry is worrying.

Industry body UK Steel says firms face a perfect storm of problems – crippling electricity prices, cheap Chinese imports and a strong pound hitting exports – and little help from a slow moving government.

In July, Tata Steel announced 550 South Yorkshire jobs were at risk, some 485 on the Thrybergh site in Rotherham.

The company says it is still consulting on redundancies stemming from the planned closure of its black bar business.

On Teesside, some 2,000 workers and 1,000 contractors at the SSI plant face a bleak future after its Thai owners announced the Redcar base would be mothballed.

If you work directly within the industry or at a related supply-chain company then you have every right to be concerned over what the future may hold.

The question is what can we do about it?

We know that our firms will do everything they possibly can to stay ahead of the game.

Specialism in our region isn’t in short supply and we can be proud that businesses based close by are truly some of the best in the world.

However, as the situation has shown in Teesside money talks. And if the rest of the world catch up – and can do it cheaper – then the game has changed.

The world market is a tough place. Life is even harder when some countries provide state aid to their industry.

Should we do this?

Would taxpayers stand for their money being pumped into businesses?

Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel says some government intervention is needed: “There’s some fantastic innovation in the steel sector in the UK, the sector as a whole is never standing still. But it’s a very difficult time, the government is talking about the ‘march of the makers’ and the Northern Powerhouse project. But if the government doesn’t help us it could be a flop.”

Gareth talks sense. The steel industry defines our area. We may not be as reliant on it as we once were but steel still runs through the very core of Sheffield and Rotherham.

Without it there will be many families who will find life very tough.

At the very least government needs to cut back on red tape and allow our lean, forward-thinking businesses to compete on a more level playing field.