Labour and Co-operative MP for Redcar, Anna Turley, has called on the Chancellor to make amends for his decision to close the SSI steelworks by investing in the site.
In 2015, Sajid Javid was Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and was responsible for the government’s decision not to step in and save the Redcar blast furnace and coke ovens when SSI went into liquidation.
Now Chancellor, Mr Javid is expected to make an announcement in Parliament next week on the government’s spending priorities for the next year. In a letter, Anna has urged him to make amends for the ‘devastation wrought in 2015’ by investing in the SSI site.
Commenting on the letter, Anna said:
“In 2015 we presented Sajid Javid with a plan to save the steelworks, mothballing the blast furnace until it could be restarted and keeping the profitable coke ovens in operation. Instead he and his government made the short-sighted decision to opt for a hard closure and we are still feeling the consequences. Four years on, progress redeveloping the site and creating new jobs has been too slow. The spending review is an opportunity for the Chancellor to kickstart investment and deliver the money Teesside is owed.”
This follows a letter Anna wrote to new Business Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, earlier this month urging her to put the regeneration of the SSI site at the top of the new government’s agenda and to honour commitments for central government to pay the full clean-up costs.
Text of letter:
Regeneration of the former SSI steelworks
I write today ahead of next week’s spending announcement to urge you to put industrial redevelopment at the forefront of your government’s spending priorities, and specifically the regeneration of the former SSI steelworks site in my constituency.
As you are aware given your role as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at the time, almost four years have now passed since the decision was taken by your government to pursue a hard closure of the SSI steelworks. My area continues to feel the consequences of that decision, with many former steelworkers still struggling to make ends meet. Those who have found new jobs are generally working for much lower pay. One man I met recently has had 13 different jobs since he lost his job at the steelworks. At the site, some clean up work has begun but it remains an industrial graveyard with huge remediation and security requirements.
In the aftermath of the closure, Lord Heseltine said: “It is much better to make it clear, central government will pay the clean-up costs and underwrite them whatever the bill comes to”. In the 2017 Budget, Teesside was given confirmation that the government would be honouring its responsibility to maintain and keep safe this COMAH graded industrial site. The financial commitment of £118 million to the South Tees Site Company was welcome, however this was a commitment to keeping the site safe for a limited number of years and not a long term solution to readying the site for the development of new industries.
The South Tees Development Corporation received just £5 million in the 2017 Budget and a further £14 million in the 2018 Budget, which were welcome contributions for short term projects but this does not come close to the estimated £200 million we need to transform the site to be ready for new industry. I am determined that it should not be left to local people in my area to pay for the clean-up and I am equally aware that the private sector will not take risks on a site like this unless it has had sufficient assurances and guarantees from government and that the site is ready for their investment.
On Teesside we are optimistic about what can be achieved here and this is one of the biggest investment opportunities in the UK right now. Locally, through the South Tees Development Corporation, we have an ambitious masterplan to create 20,000 jobs on the south bank of the Tees. There have been expressions of interest from more than 60 international investors from a whole range of industries, including power generation, energy storage, materials processing, rail industries, steelmaking, manufacturing, and waste management. Moreover, last year a consortium of energy companies announced the Clean Gas Project for the world’s first energy plant to be located on the Development Corporation site, including full-chain carbon, capture and storage provision. A multi-million pound offshore wind turbine facility is also being planned for the area. These are exciting investments for Teesside and exactly the kind of modern, green industry we have huge potential to take a lead on.
The potential for new industries and the creation of skilled jobs here is extremely positive, as we focus our efforts on the future and recovering from the disastrous hard closure. Land ownership remains a significant barrier to realising those ambitions but a compulsory purchase is now underway and will be some time from completion. As one of the biggest investment opportunities in the UK right now, and at a time when the ongoing competitiveness of our nation’s economy is of paramount importance, the site should be high on the government’s agenda. In the event of a hard Brexit, the redevelopment of the Redcar site assumes even greater importance for the success not just of the Tees Valley but the whole UK economy. Moreover, investment would be a step towards repairing the devastation wrought on our area in 2015.
I urge you to include funding for the South Tees Development Corporation in your spending review so that we can immediately get to work delivering Teesside’s full potential and create thousands of jobs in an area of our country which really needs them.