STEEL bosses warned David Cameron five years ago that energy taxes would risk thousands of jobs on Teesside, but ministers ignored the pleas as they were determined to lead ‘the greenest government in history’.
SSI Steelworks in Redcar was among the firms hit with green taxes that David Cameron has now agreed to ease. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire.
The Prime Minister yesterday confirmed he would ask the EU to approve tax breaks that will ease the burden on Britain’s under-fire steel industry.
But the move will come too late for thousands of former Redcar steelworkers who are looking for new jobs.
Prior to taking control of the former British steel plant on Teesside in 2011, SSI repeatedly sought assurances from ministers that it would not be hit with punitive taxes for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
George Osborne, however, imposed duty which hiked energy costs for steel manufacturers and other energy-intensive industries that meant that British steelmakers ended up paying 80 per cent more for electricity than the EU average, which is two times higher than the US, and three times more than in China.
Despite repeated warnings that the levy would make it almost impossible for British steel firms to compete with overseas rivals the Government has only now stepped to save the industry from collapse.
During Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mr Cameron gave a commitment to bring forward the Energy Intensive Industries Compensation Package, first announced in the 2014 budget, but only after state aid clearance is obtained from the European Commission.
Gareth Stace, the director of UK Steel, welcomed the move. “It is now essential that we seek state aid as soon as possible so that payments can begin immediately as promised. This will help provide the breathing space to help the sector through the current crisis.”
Earlier in the day former SSI Redcar workers, who lost their jobs when the plant was liquidated this month, joined a march to Parliament where a Save Our Steel banner was unfurled prior to steel crisis talks.