A government minister has signalled a new era of responsibility for the region’s business and regeneration body, urging it to take a lead in shaping the future of the steel industry in South Yorkshire.
Business minister Anna Soubry said they had given the Local Enterprise Partnership money and powers and it “should be leading” on bringing steelmakers together with the universities and research centres to help them innovate.
She spoke out after a visit to South Yorkshire when she toured Outokumpu, based in Tinsley, and had a “very long meeting” with bosses from the three biggest steel firms: Outokumpu, Tata and Forgemasters, as well as Sheffield MPs Angela Smith and Clive Betts.
Ms Soubry said: “I think there’s a huge piece of work to make sure we absolutely know there’s a real, sustainable future for the steel industry in the Sheffield area.
“We have three excellent firms making specialist, high-level steel. I would like to see them coming together in their working and combining that with more innovation, with the universities and the AMRC as well.
“The LEP’s role is in bringing all these good people together and at the moment I’m not convinced they are where they should be. The government relies on the LEP to deliver at a local level. We made funds available to do this sort of work, they really should be leading on this.”
The visit came after a year-long crisis in the industry which has shed more than 5,000 jobs nationally due to Chinese steel dumping, high energy costs and green taxes. Tata axed 550 jobs from its South Yorkshire-based speciality steels business in July and the entire UK operations are up for sale. Forgemasters lost 100 in Februatry and Outokumpu 50 jobs in March.