FT editorial board and Corbyn agree: the Scunthorpe steel plant should not be abandoned
Together with the Port Talbot plant in south Wales, Scunthorpe is one of only two integrated steel producers in the UK. A third large steelworks in Redcar, in north-east England, closed in 2015.
If both of the remaining large blast furnaces close, the country’s workforce will lose essential skills as Britain’s construction and defence industry become dependent on foreign producers or smaller companies that import raw steel.
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Britain is shifting to low-carbon energy and should not have to import steel from less green sources or outsource production to China.
The FT’s editorial believes that the state should not abandon the plant. While recognising that employment cannot always be preserved at all costs, it describes losing 5,000 jobs at the steelworks and another 20,000 supported by it as ‘a hammer blow to the working-class community of Scunthorpe and the broader North Lincolnshire region’.
The Labour Party has called on the government to take a public stake in British Steel if necessary, to protect jobs and support the UK’s infrastructure and renewable energy systems.
Former Scunthorpe steelworker Charlotte Childs said that the impact could be “immeasurable . . . Unemployment in North Lincolnshire at the minute is 4.8 per cent. If the steelworks goes that rises that to 8.4 per cent, which is double the national average. It’s not just the 4,000 workers that work on the steelworks or even the 20,000 people within the supply chain. It’s the ancillary businesses that rely on the steelworkers having a decent income and being able to spend that money within the leisure economy in the area.”
In another report she was quoted as adding: “Why is so little being done to help people? If a bailout is good enough for bankers, why isn’t it good enough for steelworkers?”