Job fears as Indian group seeks pledge
By Francesca Washtell
dmg media (UK)
TATA Steel could shut down one of its two blast furnaces in Port Talbot unless the Government lays out long-term plans to help the industry by the summer. The Indian group has told Ministers they need to provide details of support by July in order for it to go ahead with a potential multi-billion investment in green steelmaking facilities at the site in South Wales. The steelmaker has now said it is ‘concerned’ about the amount of assistance currently on offer and that the Budget was a missed opportunity for the Government to highlight its commitment to the industry. Officials are locked in talks with Tata Steel and British Steel, which operates the country’s only other two blast furnaces, to provide them with £300million each to kickstart investment in green technology. One of the blast furnaces at Port Talbot is due to wind down in the next two to three years and Tata must decide soon whether to extend its life, shut it down or replace it with a new electric steelmaking facility. Shutting it down permanently without new technology could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs and deal another hammer blow to the UK’s already dwindling industry. Energy costs have been a major sticking point for industrial groups including the steel industry for years.The Government has committed to cutting costs through a ‘supercharger’ scheme, but it does not kick in for at least a year. A Tata Steel spokesman told The Mail on Sunday: ‘While we recognise a positive direction of travel through some of the energy measures recently announced, we remain concerned that the measures will not be sufficient to allow our industry to progress to green steelmaking at the pace and scale required, The Spring Budget was an opportunity for the Government to further demonstrate its commitment to supporting a decarbonised and competitive UK steel industry.’ Award-winning actor Michael Sheen, who grew up in Port Talbot, told the MoS it was ‘unthinkable’ that the sector could be put at risk. ‘Having grown up in Port Talbot and now returned to live here again, I’m keenly aware of how important the steel industry is, not only to our community but also to our country as a whole,’ he said. A Department for Business and Trade spokesman said it is ‘committed to securing a sustainable and competitive future’ for UK steel.