Port Talbot is a replay of Redcar steel's disaster, says Teesside MP

Anna Turley accuses David Cameron of empty promises and says her constituency is still reeling from loss of 3,000 jobs

It will take Redcar in Teesside a generation to recover from the loss of 3,000 jobs after the steelworks at the heart of the community closed down despite a government promise to intervene, the town’s MP says.

According to Labour’s Anna Turley, what is happening in Port Talbot looks like a replay of the crisis that engulfed her constituency months ago.

She highlighted the words of David Cameron in September last year, when he pledged to do “everything we can” to support the Teesside plant, just as he said on Thursday about Port Talbot and other sites owned by Tata Steel.

Turley said the decision not to help Redcar caused misery for officials who have been left to deal with the spiralling costs of redundancies and unemployment, and a £1bn clean-up price for the site itself.

“I’m not very optimistic. David Cameron pledging to do ‘everything he can’ is a carbon copy of what he promised the people of Redcar back in September, but nothing happened – 3,000 jobs were lost and we are still reeling from the disaster,” she said.

“It is going to take a generation to recover. I’m not optimistic because we have been here before. It is going to cost £1bn to clear up.”

Anna Turley addresses steelworkers in September after SSI Steel halted production at Redcar
Anna Turley addresses workers in September after SSI Steel halted production at Redcar. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Turley said that Redcar’s £80m support package actually amounted to £50m, because of the inevitable cost of redundancies. She welcomed the money to retrain those losing jobs but pointed out that, after a two-week course, they were still faced with having nowhere to work.

The unemployment rate was staggering because the area depended on the plant, she added, with many more jobs in the supply chain. The closure even had a knock-on effect for childminders.

Turley campaigned to protect the site alongside Tom Blenkinsop, the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, with both taking senior positions on an all-party parliamentary group on steel. They have written to Sajid Javid, the business secretary, to request an urgent meeting.

“The last 12 months have been exceptionally difficult for this industry, with workers and communities across the UK having suffered, not least on Teesside where the local community is still reeling from over 3,000 job losses on the Redcar site,” they wrote.

Unions are also comparing the current crisis, in which up to 40,000 jobs are said to be on the line, to what happened late last year. Unite is warning that “warm words and a PR photocall won’t cut it”.

Andy Richards, the union’s Welsh secretary, said: “Steelworkers at Port Talbot and across Tata Steel will want to know just exactly what Sajid Javid intends to do to safeguard their industry, their livelihoods and their communities. So far all they have received is tea and sympathy from afar with no real concrete solutions for the industrial crisis facing the nation.

“We’ve been here before when the business secretary visited Redcar. Lots of noise and promises to deal with the symptoms of the steel crisis, rather than the causes as thousands of livelihoods went to wall because of government inaction.”


Anushka Asthana Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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