Forgemasters may resurrect plan to build £140m press

Review: Sheffield Forgemasters may resurrect axed steel press plans.
Review: Sheffield Forgemasters may resurrect axed steel press plans.
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SHEFFIELD engineering firm Forgemasters may resurrect plans to build a £140 million steel press despite the coalition government controversially axing an £80 million loan, it emerged today.

It has launched a three month funding review over whether it can still build the 15,000-ton steel press, a project axed in the early days of the coalition government.

The news will be a boon to the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader, Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, whose party’s spring conference is in Sheffield this weekend.

There is unrest among members over the party’s role in the coalition, as they believe their ministers have been weak over banker bonuses and student tuition fees. Mr Clegg suffered from the original decision last year as his constituency is in Sheffield.

The Tory-Lim Dem Government chose Sheffield Forgemasters as an ‘easy’ target for cuts when it decided to axe the £80 million industrial loan promised by Labour, a powerful parliamentary committee concluded.

A report by the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee said funding for the press to make parts for nuclear reactors would have “enabled the UK to take a significant lead in this important industry”.

The committee dismissed the Government’s argument that it could not afford the loan - and urged it to seek alternative funding sources so the opportunity for economic growth was “not lost”.

The cut was controversial as there were claims that it would cost jobs and mean that Britain would lose this market to Asian competitors.

Forgemasters have started a review into funding and say it could take up to three months to complete.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, agreed to reconsider the proposal if Forgemasters looked again at its plans in the first half of this year.

Funding options are believed to include project finance, selling a stake in the business to a private sector partner, or approaching the government again.