Tees

Redcar SSI closure recovery 'long and challenging'

SSI UK steel blast furnace site, Redcar Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Redcar plant was mothballed in September 2015, then fully shut down a month later

The road to recovery after Redcar's SSI steelworks closure will be "long and challenging", a report has found.

But the task force set up after 2,200 people lost their jobs in 2015 also noted "a good start" had been made.

Many ex-workers' salaries though are not at the level they were pre-closure.

For some, an inability to match former earnings or maintain their lifestyle had a "devastating impact" on general wellbeing, health and relationships, the report said.

The reduction in personal spending power also had an impact on the wider service economy, and was felt particularly on high streets and town centres.

Government funding of £16m for start-ups and training has led to more than 1,800 new jobs and the creation of hundreds of businesses.

'Back to life'

A couple - along with their son, also a former SSI worker - were helped to set up a wine and cocktail bar on the site of an empty shop in Redcar.

Gerry Morrison said: "This part of town is coming back to life with cafés, pubs and restaurants and it's exciting to be part of it."

Image copyright SSI task foroce
Image caption Funding has been used to support a wide range of new firms

The report collected data from the start-up firms once they had been trading for 26 weeks and found more than 91% of businesses were still operational.

However, it noted the level of failure was slightly higher than the national average of 7.8%, and above the Tees Valley level of 6.8%.

The most recent to close its doors was a Jamaican food business set up in Middlesbrough by former production operator Mark Hill.

Launched in May 2016 with help from the Business Advice Start Up Fund, it ceased trading on Friday - having been highlighted as a success in the task force's newly released report.

'Constant worry'

Mr Hill, who is from Kingston in Jamaica, called for more help for those launching firms.

He said: "I miss the job [at SSI] and the sense of security I had week in, week out.

"It's a constant worry for me, for my family.

"They helped me with the business plan and put forward a bid for funding of up to £10,000, but I had to take out loans and use my savings."

'Well-paid jobs'

The task force is to make further funding available across the whole of the Teesside economy to encourage existing businesses to create more jobs.

Amanda Skelton, chair of the SSI task force and chief executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: "We do not underestimate that there is still much to be done to help people survive and thrive following redundancy and prepare for new opportunities ahead.

"Our focus is now on creating a long-term sustainable economy with better, well-paid jobs and prospects for everyone.

"We want to build on the success of the business start-up scheme by widening this opportunity to others across the Tees Valley, encouraging that entrepreneurial spirit across the whole area."

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