Relief for steelworkers as £100m sale of Stocksbridge and Rotherham plants finally agreed

Steelworkers have been facing uncertainty over their jobs since March 2016.
Steelworkers have been facing uncertainty over their jobs since March 2016.
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Steelworkers can start to look forward to a ‘degree of stability’ after the sale of two South Yorkshire plants was agreed.

Tata Steel today confirmed the long-awaited deal to sell its speciality business to Liberty House Group for £100 million.

Liberty House executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said he was confident the ‘world class’ business would ‘flourish’.

The 1,700 staff based at Tata’s Stocksbridge and Rotherham plants have been working under a cloud of uncertainty since the international firm announced plans to sell its UK business in March.

But yesterday’s news was greeted positively by many of those who have campaigned to save South Yorkshire jobs.

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey said it was a ‘big step in securing steel-making in South Yorkshire for the long-term’.

Tata Steel in Stocksbridge.

Tata Steel in Stocksbridge.

“Liberty House have pledged the investment, jobs and marketing that can continue speciality steel’s success,” he said.

“2016 was an awful year of job cuts and uncertainty in Tata but the sale agreement means steelworkers and their families can start to see light at the end of the tunnel during 2017.”

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith added: "The purchase will make Liberty one of the largest steel and engineering employers in the UK, with more than 4,000 workers at plants located across Britain’s industrial heartlands.

"This will mean South Yorkshire remains at the centre of high value steel making and that high value jobs remain in the area.”

Stocksbridge has relied on steel for decades.

Stocksbridge has relied on steel for decades.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Wright urged Liberty House to take a ‘long term approach’.

He added: “The speciality steel division is slightly above a foundation industry but so many supply chains originate from it meaning it has great strategic importance to the whole of the UK.

“The industrial strategy released by the Government two weeks ago at last started to recognise this and that bodes a good future for the industry.”

Sheffield Council's deputy leader Leigh Bramall said: "This announcement comes hot on the heels of today’s announcement about McLaren Automotive and marks an excellent day for the local economy and skilled, essential local jobs.

"It is a massive boost to the area to hear that Tata have completed sale of the speciality business to Liberty House Group.

“Not only do we hope that this will secure further skilled employment in Sheffield and Rotherham but also will keep us at the centre of advanced metals production and involved in key supply chains such as aerospace and automotive."

Unions have been among the most vocal supporters of South Yorkshire’s steelworkers.

Unite national officer Tony Brady said: “This is a welcome step which will begin to provide a degree of stability for our members in the speciality steel business.

“The workforce makes some of the most advanced steel in the world and has worked hard to secure the business’s future.”

Roy Rickhuss, general Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union, added: “Today’s news is a welcome step forward in securing the future of the Speciality Steels business. However, this is not the end of the process and there is still work to do before the sale is completed.

"Community has been campaigning for months for longer-term certainty for these highly skilled jobs and we will now engage more directly with Liberty to understand their plan for the business."

And the news was greeted with relief in the Stocksbridge community, which has relied on the steel industry for decades.

The Rev James Grayson, minister at Stocksbridge Christian Centre, said: “If this is the deal that we thought it would be, clearly it’s good news if it means that the plant will stay open.”

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