Tata 'fed up' with ministers over Corus closure

The Redcar plant at night
The Redcar plant at night

By Alex Stevenson

Tata Steel has "lost all confidence" in the government's ability to rescue Corus' Teesside plant, an MP has claimed.

Middlesbrough South and Cleveland's Ashok Kumar told politics.co.uk the Indian firm had become disillusioned after months of foot-dragging by Peter Mandelson's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis).

The closure of Tata subsidiary Corus' Teesside Cast Products (TCP) plant had been due at the end of the month. Last week campaigners succeeded in deferring the mothballing until either the end of February or until iron ore at the plant runs out, whichever comes first.

Election focus: Middlesbrough South and Cleveland

The stay of execution is only a postponement, however. Mr Kumar - and, he claims, Tata Steel - want the government to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to keep the plant afloat and save 1,900 jobs.

"They [Tata] have lost all confidence in the Bis department," he said.

"They've been going in and out for a year and Bis have given them tea, sympathy, sandwiches, patted them on the back and off they went. They are fed up."

Corus did not offer a comment on their position.

But Mr Kumar, who has close contacts with the steelmaker, added: "You can rest assured Tata wants to keep the plant open. That - as the sky is blue - they said to me. But they do want financial support from the government."

The government neither confirmed nor denied it was prepared to offer a bailout package to maintain the current plant.

Instead a Bis spokesperson said: "We are continuing to work with Corus to find alternative work or uses for the Teesside plant to secure a viable future for Teesside but we are also working hard on other areas to support workforce and industry in the area."

Last month it unveiled a £60 million package for new investment projects in a bid to help the region become a leader in advanced engineering, chemical and other low-carbon and high-technology industries.

"These are the jobs of the future and the government is committed to seeing the north-east economy thrive," the spokesperson added.

North-east minister Nick Brown told the north-east select committee on Wednesday there was still a possibility could make some progress, however.

"I mustn't get people's hopes up. The prospects are not good but there is a still a slim sliver of opportunity," the Journal newspaper quoted him as saying.

"The issues have been dealt with at a very high level within government. And the fact that right at the heart of government people haven't given up on it means there is still some prospect of hope. I have to say it looks pretty slim to me, but worth trying."


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