Corus greets government aid package with caution

Troubled steel producer Corus has said it is ‘interested’ in a multi-million pound government aid package aimed at saving its Llanwern site in Wales.

Troubled steel producer Corus has said it is ‘interested’ in a multi-million pound government aid package aimed at saving its Llanwern site in Wales.

A spokesman for the Anglo- Dutch company, which is thought to be planning the closure of the Welsh plant with the loss of 2,600 jobs, said it was still waiting to see the official proposal for aid announced by the Welsh Assembly last week.

‘So far we have only had contact with individual members of the assembly, and at the moment all we can say is that we are interested in seeing details of the aid package,’ said Corus media relations manager Mike Hitchcock.

Corus has blamed a weak euro for substantial losses made by its UK manufacturing arm. An order for compulsory redundancies at other plants in Scunthorpe and Teesside sparked moves for a strike ballot of union members last week.

But in an attempt to secure jobs at Llanwern, and a further 5,000 estimated to be dependent on the steel industry in the wider community, the Welsh Assembly said it had identified five ways in which it might support the plant until trade and the euro gained strength.

Michael German, Welsh deputy first minister and minister for economic development, told the assembly last week: ‘Already we have helped to bring forward the revaluation of business rates, which has saved Corus over £4m.

‘We have a training support package, and we are also examining research and development and environmental projects.’

These projects include the assembly buying land owned by Corus, and a reduction of the company’s climate change levy.

Corus, however, has already struck a deal with central government on investment needed to make it eligible for a reduction in the climate change levy.

The company also claims its business rates have increased sharply and it now pays a total of £24m for its Welsh rates.

Despite this Welsh Assembly member John Griffiths, whose constituency includes the Llanwern plant, said the company had a responsibility to its employees.

‘The workforce has endured continual job losses. They have trained, up-skilled and adapted to new working practices to make Llanwern productive. It is now time for Corus’ management to demonstrate a similar commitment,’ he said.

Because of Corus’ current redundancy programme its main union, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, sent ballot papers for industrial action out to its Scunthorpe site members yesterday. The result, which could lead to strike action, will be declared on 5 February.

On the web