Steel crisis: 5 possible solutions to the Tata sell-off which could cost 500 Hartlepool jobs

Fears are growing over the future of the steel industry as Tata prepares to sell its UK assets, including its rolling mill in Hartlepool, which employs 500 people.

Thursday, 31st March 2016, 10:29 am
Updated Thursday, 31st March 2016, 11:41 am
Britain's steel industry has been plunged into crisis after Tata announced it is selling off its UK assets.

Here are some of the potential resolutions to the crisis.

1. Nationalise the steel industry

Despite cries for the Government to nationalise the steel industry, it has been ruled out by Prime Minister David Cameron following a meeting with ministers. Business Secretary Sajid Javid also poured cold water on the idea, saying he did not believe it was "the solution" to the crisis.

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The industry was nationalised in 1967 under Labour, with 90% of UK steel-making brought together into a single business - the British Steel Corporation. The move sought to streamline the vital industry and make it more competitive. Despite initial losses it turned around British steel's fortunes and resulted in a pre-tax profit in 1989/90 of £733million. But in 1988, British Steel was privatised again by the Conservative government.

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2. Find a buyer

Business Minister Anna Soubry has said "the dream" solution would be finding a successful buyer. But Tata says it is losing £1million a day in its UK operations following a collapse in the price of steel products, making it a risky prospect for interested parties.

As it stands, there are no obvious buyers. Metals firm Liberty House has recently bought two of Tata's steel mills in Scotland, but has not yet shown interest in acquiring any further assets. China has some of the world's largest steel-makers, but it seems unlikely that they or any global players would purchase a challenging business in the UK.

3. Government loans for buyer

The Government could step in and provide a loan to a potential buyer to make purchase more attractive. Tata Steel has been in talks with Greybull Capital in relation to the sale of its UK Long Products business, which covers several UK-based assets including the Scunthorpe steelworks. The Department for Business is considering a loan of up to £80 million to help the deal go through, according to reports.

4. Temporary public ownership

The Government could play the middle man in the sale of Tata's assets and help to find a suitable buyer. This would involve taking temporary ownership of the business before selling it on. The Scottish Government was involved in a similar "back to back" agreement, buying the Clydebridge and Dalzell steel plants in Lanarkshire from Tata Steel and immediately selling them on to Liberty House.

5. Tax relief

A range of tax breaks and guarantees could also be considered to make purchase more attractive. The Government announced a cut in business rates at the Lanarkshire plants for any new operator provided they continue to use the sites for steel production, and similar measures may be introduced in a bid to prevent other Tata assets from mothballing.