Steel communities support package

Published Tuesday, 15th December 2015
The Town Hall in Rotherham
Rotherham Town Hall

Rotherham Council is backing a support package for the steel industry which is being put together by Sheffield City Region partners.

A consolidated plan to secure a support package of around £9 million for steelworkers and the wider community affected by Tata Steel’s recently-announced job restructuring is being put together by partners across the Sheffield City Region.

The package will help individual workers facing redundancy and supply chain businesses likely to be hit hard in Rotherham and the whole City Region, as well as supporting other local companies to create jobs.

Cllr Chris Read, Rotherham Council Leader, has the backing of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – which comprises representatives from the public and private sectors – for a comprehensive joint action plan focusing on improving trading conditions for UK steel producers, helping supply chain companies to diversify and grow into new markets, and providing specific support for affected employees and the community.

The plan combines locally-driven support packages – such as training and development for those at risk - with a call for the Government to invest and give more support to the steel and other industries struggling to compete in the face of massive energy costs, business rates and the strong pound.

A local task group is shaping the plan and co-ordinating its delivery, with input from Rotherham Council, Sheffield City Region LEP, the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, UK Steel Enterprise the regeneration subsidiary of Tata Steel, Government agencies including JobCentrePlus and the Skills Funding Agency, Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber, trade unions and Tata Steel.

The ask of Government will be made by John Healey, MP for Wentworth and the Dearne, as he lobbies for further support.  Mr Healey was due to meet Anna Soubry, Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, on Tuesday (15 December). 

The LEP and the Combined Authority have acknowledged that dealing with the fall-out of Tata Steel’s trading challenges is a priority for the whole of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) with many of the supply chain businesses affected outside of the Rotherham Borough. 

Much of the activity contained in the plan will be funded through money devolved to the SCR to respond decisively to events such as the Tata Steel announcement. However, local partners have expressed their expectation that Government funds will be made available to match local resources, as has happened elsewhere in the country facing similar issues – for example, Scunthorpe.

UK Steel Enterprise has pledged £1.55million of support for job creation. In addition the partnership group is calling for £2.5million in funding from central Government to help employees and companies affected across the City Region. A further £1.5 million is being sought from the Government’s deregulated skills budget, and would be used to prepare former steelworkers for jobs in other industries, or to set up their own small business.  The Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at its 7 December meeting indicated that businesses affected can access financial support from its £52million Business Investment Fund. The overall amount will be determined by individual business need but could total in excess of £3miliion to £4million.

Said Cllr Read: “Workers in Rotherham who are facing redundancy will want to know that we are doing everything to support them and help them back to work. This is a very difficult time for them and their families and I am determined that we will do all that we can.

“Companies in the supply chain will feel the impact too, and we will also be working to support these businesses, and their employees, as a key part of this plan.”

Keith Williams, UK Steel Enterprise Regional Manager, said: “We are committed to supporting the communities affected and to helping businesses grow and create new jobs.

“We are working closely with local partner organisations and welcome proposals or projects which can create jobs, from both business support organisations and from private companies.”

Specific elements of the overall action plan include:

  • Support for individuals, including help to build CVs and find new work, careers guidance and money advice
  • Building a picture of the possible impact on the local supply chain, in order to put in place support where possible

John Healey MP added:  “Rotherham Council, Sheffield City Region and UK Steel Enterprise are proposing a wide-ranging package that will give all the support it can locally to steelworkers and supply businesses being hit by Tata Steel redundancies.

“Now Tata Steel has confirmed 720 jobs will go in Speciality Steels – including 685 in Rotherham and Stocksbridge – we need the Government to step up too so together we can offer around £9m of support.

“This is what I will be asking of the industry minister Anna Soubry at our meeting today.  This is what our committed workers deserve. We need the Government to help us to help them.”

In recent weeks, Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of the steelworkers' union, Community, has also been making direct representations to Government, including the skills minister, Nick Boles MP, to secure appropriate support for South Yorkshire's steelworkers. Mr Rickhuss will be meeting the Business Secretary later this week.

Mr Rickhuss said: "It is only right and proper that Government delivers a level of support to South Yorkshire's steelworkers which has been promised to other areas.

"Support packages are vitally important to protect our steel communities. But alone they are insufficient. We need continued action from all stakeholders to put in place the necessary policies and investment to secure a sustainable future for the steel industry in South Yorkshire and throughout the UK."

James Newman, Chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “Tata Steel is one of our largest employers and is therefore very important to the long-term future of the Sheffield City Region. The LEP has agreed to work with Tata Steel to make sure that both individuals and businesses are supported through the powers and funding available to us in our Growth and Devolution Deals.”