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Working groups to tackle threats to steel industry

A three-pronged action plan has been outlined by participants at an emergency steel summit called to discuss the ailing UK industry.

The summit was held in Rotherham on 16 October in the week that Tata Steel announced the loss of 1,200 jobs at its Scunthorpe plant and confirmation from SSI that it would close the Redcar, Teesside, plant, pictured.

Steel prices have halved in the past year, with both the Chinese yuan and Russian rouble being devalued, which has added further pressure to the UK steel industry.

Freefalling scrap prices prompted the British Metals Recycling Association to call on the Government to reduce VAT on some metals.

There has been considerable criticism from steel industry players complaining of an ‘unlevel playing field’. They argue, for example, that the UK industry is hit harder with business rates than competitors in France and Germany.

Following the summit, working groups chaired by ministers will be set up to gather evidence around:

  • the number of contracts won by UK steel manufacturers
  • lessons learned from other countries
  • competitiveness and productivity

As well as considering energy and environmental costs, business rates and regulations, the groups will also look at ways the industry can drive up its competitiveness including skills, training and maximising its assets.

Business secretary Sajid Javid told the summit: “There is no straightforward solution to the complex global challenges facing the steel industry. But today was an important opportunity to bring the key players together and we now have a framework of action.

“The Government is committed to working closely with industry on short-term and long-term issues, and to doing everything we can to support both industry and the workers. A strong economy underpins everything and we will continue to focus on securing the UK’s economic recovery across the UK.”

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