Uncertainty over Teesside steel plant clean-up costs pledge

MPs have called on Government to  step up support for steel
MPs have called on Government to step up support for steel

The man leading the taskforce to find a future for the SSI Steelworks site on Teesside has refused to re-iterate a promise that the Government would meet the clean-up costs at the plant.

In an interview to be shown on BBC’s Inside Out programme tonight, Lord Michael Heseltine was asked three times to confirm the commitment.

In February Lord Heseltine, appointed to lead the regeneration of the area, said that the cost of cleaning up the area would be met by central government.

During a visit to the area he said: “The money to clean up the site will be what it costs. Central government will pay the clean-up costs and underwrite them whatever the bill comes to.”

But with no progress over the last seven months, local residents fear that central government does not plan to deliver on Lord Heseltine’s promise.

The clean-up of the site is being delayed due to a dispute between the administrator and three Thai banks over a £350m loan made to SSI. It is estimated it could cost as much as a billion pounds.

In the interview, Lord Heseltine also said the government couldn’t give a ‘blank undertaking’ to meet clean-up costs.

Asked if he had been wrong to make the pledge in February, he replied: “No no. I think in the context that I was talking it was perfectly reasonable.”