Plans to axe 250 jobs at Sheffield steel company 'devastating', councillor says

A Sheffield councillor has described the decision by a South Yorkshire steel company to cut hundreds of jobs as ‘devastating’.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 6:00 pm
Updated Monday, 13th January 2020, 3:08 pm

Stocksbridge and Upper Don Councillor Julie Grocott was speaking the day after Liberty Specialist Steels announced plans to cut around 250 jobs at its Stocksbridge plant.

The cuts mark the latest chapter in the decline of an industry which traces its roots in the area back to the mid-19th century and once employed up to 7,000 people.

But Councillor Grocott said that as well as the job losses, which will have a big economic effect on the area, the impact on the identity of Stocksbridge was incalculable.

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Liberty Steels job cuts: Karen Fletcher.

She said: “For 250 people to be losing their jobs at the drop of a hat is just absolutely devastating for the individuals concerned, for our town, for the local economy and for all the families who are going to suffer as a result of it.

"This town has grown and thrived for years because of the steel industry. It has supported so many local opportunities so people aren’t just losing their jobs, there is a lot more that could be at risk.

“I am sure that the unions will be working very hard fighting for their members and as a city council I think we have a responsibility to look for job opportunities and retraining for people who are going to be affected.

“But steel has been at the heart of manufacturing not only in Stocksbridge but in Sheffield and the whole north of England, so when we are losing that we are losing part of our identity and that is just terrible.”

Liberty Steels job cuts: The Liberty Steels factory in Stocksbridge.

At the Fox Valley shopping centre on Friday, residents spoke of their sadness at seeing the decline of an industry so closely identified with the area.

Karen Fletcher, from Silkstone Common, said her husband took his apprenticeship at the Stocksbridge steelworks more than 50 years ago.

“It is awful for the community and this place,” she said.

“It seemed to be recovering from things in the past but this is going to be a big setback.

Liberty Steels job cuts: The history of steel in Stocksbridge.

“It is a massive thing for Stocksbridge. We thought with the takeover that everything was going to be ok but I suppose it is a sign of the times.”

Retired farmer Roger Goldthorpe from Millhouse Green said he felt the government should have provided the industry with more support.

“They say it is about the Chinese dumping steel, well why don’t they stop them?” he said.

“And they are also charging them too much for energy. How can they compete?

Liberty Steels job cuts: Roger Goldthorpe.

“This whole place used to be steelworks. It is sad.”

Paula Williamson, from Stocksbridge, said the industry was ‘part of the community’.

“My uncles used to work in the steelworks until they were made redundant,” she said.

“It used to be so big and it has been going such a long time. It is a real shame.

“If it does end up going then Stocksbridge is going to lose a lot of people.”

Gareth Irvine, who works at the Aldi at Fox Valley, said he was worried about the impact of the job losses on the area.

Liberty Steels job cuts: The history of steel in Stocksbridge.

He said: “I have seen it go downhill and then come back to become more prosperous when Fox Valley opened.

“But with this announcement it is quite scary to think what might happen.

“Fox Valley has been good for the area but we wouldn’t want the entire place to be a retail centre.”

Steve Scott from Ingbirchworth said it would be very difficult to replace such a big employer.

He said: “Retail is one thing but you can’t replace jobs like these easily. The jobs here were good jobs that pay well with good pensions.

“This whole place used to be steelworks but the industry is still a big part of the community.”

And Wendy Law from Stocksbridge said the steel industry's decline was ‘very, very said’.

She said: “When I first moved here 40 years ago they were bringing people in from all over.

“But in the 90s it was decimated and now there is almost nothing left. It is devastating.”

Liberty Steels job cuts: The Liberty Steels factory in Stocksbridge.
Liberty Steels job cuts: The history of steel in Stocksbridge.
Liberty Steels job cuts: Paula Williamson.
Liberty Steels job cuts: Gareth Irvine.
Liberty Steels job cuts: Wendy Law.
Liberty Steels job cuts: Steve Scott.