MPs pledge to support South Yorkshire steelworkers facing redundancy

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MPs have leapt to the defence of 283 South Yorkshire steelworkers at risk of redundancy - and called for government to keep its promises of support for the sector.

Liberty Speciality Steels is planning to cut 250 jobs in Stocksbridge, with a further 33 facing the axe in Rotherham. Bosses have blamed falling demand in the UK and Europe due to ‘political uncertainty and issues around Brexit’.Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge, said she would do “everything I can to support those affected by this decision.”She has also asked business minister Nadhim Zahawi for a meeting to discuss government support for the steel industry and workers.But Labour MPs have highlighted what they claim as government inaction.

Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, said she had repeatedly challenged the Government to address issues hampering production, including high business rates, high electricity costs, imports of cheap steel and a failure to prioritise British steel in government procurement.

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She added: “Unless the government removes these massive obstacles to a competitive UK steel industry, the future of this vital industry remains bleak. It is their duty to protect the steel sector and I have requested an urgent meeting with the minister to hold them to account.”

Liberty Speciality Steels StocksbridgeLiberty Speciality Steels Stocksbridge
Liberty Speciality Steels Stocksbridge

Rotherham MP John Healey said Sajid Javid, then business secretary, chaired a national steel summit in Rotherham in 2015 and pledged to help, “but more than four years on, we’re still waiting.”

He added: “This is devastating news for steel workers and their families, especially so early in the new year.

“I’ve talked to Liberty today and got confirmation that they will continue their investment programme in South Yorkshire, which includes plans to restart the N furnace at Rotherham Aldwarke, and I will continue pressing the company to keep that promise.

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“But our UK steel industry still needs government backing. For years, I’ve been fighting with the industry for help on business rates and UK energy costs which are far higher than our European competitors. The government isn’t listening, let alone taking action.”

UK steel producers pay 62 per cent more for electricity than competitors in Germany, and 80 per cent more than those in France, according to Make UK.

Gill Furniss, Sheffield MP and Labour’s shadow minister for steel, said the industry had faced “countless” challenges and received little or no help.

She added: “The time for excuses is over. The Prime Minister must act now to save the UK steel sector and prevent further job losses.”

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Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield City Council, said they would work with the firm to develop re-training and redeployment opportunities.

He added: “It is devastating news to hear of the job losses at Liberty Steel, which could affect many people in Sheffield.

“We know that falling levels of demand and the impact of Brexit have made for very challenging trading conditions but we remain optimistic that, given the skills of the retained workforce and previous investment facilities, there remains a viable and vitally important speciality steels business in Stocksbridge.

“It’s vital the Government act now to provide all necessary support to the business and of course, the individuals concerned."