Business

Redcar - the £80m question

SSI steelworks in Redcar Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Redcar faces tough times without the steelworkers

On 2 October - the same day the government confirmed that the SSI steel plant in Redcar would close for good - it also announced an £80m support package for the town.

And even before they'd spent a penny of it, the fund paid out a political dividend. The promised cash quickly shifted the debate from what should have been done to prevent SSI's collapse to what happens next?

The comparison with previous threats to the steelworks in the north-east of England couldn't be starker.

Six years ago a Save our Steel campaign did just that - brought steel production back to Redcar. This time, even though Save our Steel posters can be seen all across town, there seems to be little real expectation that the trick can be pulled off twice.

Redcar is left with a lingering sense of abandonment - and some very important questions.

What's the £80m really for? How will it be delivered and, perhaps most crucially, can it really make any real difference to the community's future?

Tough questions

We already know the challenge is daunting - redeploy more than 2,000 workers who are highly skilled, but whose training is specific to an industry that has now gone.

But it will get even tougher than that - it's estimated by enterprise agency Tees Valley Unlimited that 900 have lost their jobs in the supply chain, a number that rises daily.

Image copyright Ian Forsyth
Image caption Save Our Steel posters have gone up across Redcar

At first, details of exactly how this fund would be spent were unclear. The Business Secretary Sajid Javid's original announcement said only that "full details of the package are being worked through".

But now more information is beginning to emerge. £30m has been set aside for redundancy payments. £1.7m is being spent to help 50 former SSI apprentices finish their training at other employers. Less optimistically, £2.4m has been earmarked for former steel workers who "find themselves in crisis".

Another £16.5m is going on a "Jobs and Skills Fund" - to "help local firms employ SSI workers or their spouses in full time or part time jobs for a minimum of three years."

A further £16m will provide support for firms in the SSI supply chain who have been hit by the plant's closure - and whose own employees could be facing redundancy before Christmas.

Meanwhile, £5.65m is going on re-training and £750,000 on people starting new businesses. The remaining £7m is so far unaccounted for.

Image copyright Ian Forsyth
Image caption The closure of the steelworks will likely cause knock-on job cuts across Redcar

But now it turns out the initial costs for redundancy payments were overinflated. It's now thought the total cost of redundancy payments is going to be nowhere near as much as had been initially set aside for them - and that could mean another £20m of the £80m unaccounted for.

Business Minister Anna Soubry has given an assurance it will not be kept back by Whitehall and will still go into the overall fund.

So up to £30m is still to play for.

What can this money buy? Who is going to decide? What will it be spent on, and by when? These are the questions the local community wants answers to.

Redcar is not unique - an industrial town dealing with years of globalization. Unemployment and regeneration have been big issues here for years already.

It is, however, a resilient and proud town.

In the next six weeks in the countdown to Christmas, we'll ask the residents what they want, what they can expect as we live their lives with them. We'll also ask what are towns like Redcar now for?

From now until Christmas, the BBC's Panorama programme will be in Redcar to report on life after a century of steel making. You can follow the story on the Panorama Facebook page. Or search bbcpanorama on Snapchat.

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