A STEEL plant which employs more than 750 people - including dozens from Barnsley - has been put up for sale by its cash-strapped owner in a last-ditch attempt to save the firm from collapse.
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Miriam Cates, Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis - who is also the Mayor of Sheffield City Region - Barnsley East’s Stephanie Peacock and Wentworth and Dearne’s John Healey have all called on the government to provide support this week to both the industry and Liberty Steel’s workforce.
Owner Sanjeev Gupta’s Stocksbridge plant - one of seven put up for sale across the country - employs 762 people and MPs in the town have urged the government to help secure a buyer in order to protect ‘vital’ jobs.
The near-collapse of Liberty, which sent shockwaves through Britain’s steel industry when 250 jobs were axed last year, came after its major lender Greensill tumbled into administration in March.
Miriam said: “Following the recent financial difficulties of the GFG Alliance, which owns Liberty Steel, owners have been negotiating with creditors to try to re-finance the business.
“Liberty have reached an agreement with their main creditors, but this involves the sale of the Stocksbridge plant.
“This is clearly an anxious time for steelmakers in Stocksbridge, their families, and our community, and I will be available to talk to steelworkers and union reps at the plant this week.
“I believe passionately that there is a strong future for steelmaking in Stocksbridge, and I will do everything I can to work with the government and Liberty to find the right buyer.
“I have written to Secretary of State for Business, Kwasi Kwarteng, urging him to intervene to help find a suitable buyer for the site.
“I have also asked that the government consider providing financial assistance if necessary to make sure that steelmaking can continue until a buyer is found.
“As the local MPI will continue to make the case to government to secure the future of UK steel.”
Miriam met with Secretary of State for Business, Andrea Leadsom, and steel minister Nadhim Zahawi to ‘explore ways in which the government can help’.
“Steel manufacture is an important part of our heritage and I firmly believe that it has an equally important role in our future,” she added.
“Jobs in the steel industry tend to be high-skilled and well paid and these are exactly the kind of jobs we need in our community.
“That’s why I will continue to do all I can to work with the government, workers and the steel industry to secure the future of steel locally.”
The aerospace industry is a major customer of the plant and the distress in that industry - a knock-on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic - has seen demand for steel plummet.
Dan told the Chronicle that the government should provide urgent finances until a new buyer is found to protect dozens of Barnsley residents’ jobs.
“The news that the plant is to be sold off will be a cause for great anxiety among its 700-plus workers and for the suppliers and wider community it helps to support,” he added.
“Their future, and the future of the local steel industry, depends on finding a buyer willing to invest for the long-term.
“Both this site and the wider sector have enormous potential, but the government must act to help secure it.
“That includes being prepared to help provide finance to bridge any transition period until a new buyer is found - but also doing much more to ensure British-made speciality steel like that produced at Stocksbridge is used for the myriad of defence and infrastructure projects that need it.
“British steel has a bright future as a zero-carbon, high quality, internationally competitive product. It would be a travesty for South Yorkshire and for the whole country if that potential was lost through lack of action.”