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Northern powerhouse 'could fail'

The Government needs to invest more in building up skills and industry in the so-called 'northern powerhouse' cities, according to a report.

The Centre for Cities thinktank says Leeds and Sheffield are 'underperforming' in economic terms - by around 40 per cent - in comparison with their European counterparts.

The report says simply building better transport links between our northern cities, such as HS3, is not enough.

“We can’t build a successful Northern Powerhouse without stronger, more productive cities.

''The Government’s initiative has the potential to have a huge impact in addressing the North/South divide, but only if it maintains its original focus of boosting productivity in major Northern cities such as Leeds and Sheffield.

''These big urban areas have the most potential for growth in the region, but are currently underperforming, especially in comparison to cities in more successful areas such as the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad areas.

“Instead of spreading limited monies and political focus equally across the whole region, national and local policy-makers should concentrate most resources on addressing the economic challenges that big Northern cities like Leeds and Sheffield face, as these have greatest potential to deliver benefits for the North as a whole.”

– Alexandra Jones, Centre for Cities

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Steel trade unions welcome Tata pension law consultation

The steel trade unions have welcomed the Government's consultation on changes to pensions law as part of efforts to save Tata Steel and called on the company to uphold its "legal, social and moral responsibilities" to steel workers.

In a combined statement, Community, Unite and GMB endorsed the move to avoid the "unmitigated disaster" of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) going into the financial safety net of the Pensions Protection Fund (PPF) with a sale of Tata's assets.

It is important that all stakeholders continue to explore all available options that avoid the need for the scheme to go into the PPF, which would be the worst deal for scheme members.

It is important to remember that Tata Steel remains the employer and sponsor of the BSPS. They have significant legal, social and moral responsibilities with regards to the British steel industry and those men and women who have worked and continue to work within it.

– Community, Unite and GMB
Steel unions said they would continue to be 'led by our members' in the industry. Credit: PA Wire

The Human Resources director for Tata Steel's European operations said the consultation would enable a "better outcome" for the vast majority of members of the BSPS.

We welcome the inclusion of an option to change the way that future payments in the scheme are increased. This option, which is fully supported by the pension scheme's trustees, provides a way for the scheme to continue to operate on a well-funded, low-risk basis indefinitely.

The British Steel Pension Scheme was set up on the basis that pension increases would be provided so long as they remained affordable. The proposed legislative changes would allow this unusual rule to operate as intended. That means it's unlikely that a regulatory change would affect other final salary pension schemes.

– Tor Farquhar, Human Resources director for Tata Steel's European operations
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Javid 'wary of precedent' amid Tata pensions consultation

Business Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed the Government is set to launch an "open consultation" on changes to pensions law as part of efforts to save Tata Steel despite being "very wary of setting a precedent".

The consultation, which will run until June 23, sets out a number of different options for the British Steel Pension Scheme and its 130,000 members.

The scheme includes 14,000 people currently employed by Tata or another employer, 32,000 are deferred (no longer employed by Tata but below the scheme's normal pension age) and 84,000 pensioners.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed in the House of Commons details of the Tata consultation.

The Government has been warned against the impact of setting a precedent by seeking to change pension law.

"No decision (on Tata's future) has been made," Mr Javid told MPs. "We are very wary of setting a precedent ... this is very much about this scheme and this scheme only in these very unique circumstances."

Shadow business secretary Angela Eagle warned against cutting the fund's long-term liabilities by benchmarking it to the consumer price index (CPI) rather than the higher retail price index (RPI), saying: "This change is currently illegal."

Hull to get extra £3 million for UK City of Culture year

Funding announced at breakfast gathering

Hull is to get an extra £3 million to spend on it's year as UK City of Culture.

The money, which will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, was announced at a breakfast gathering in Hull called to launch a series of events in the city this summer.

Martin Green, the man in charge of the city's cultural celebrations says it will mean a boost for local libraries.

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'All British Tata Steel bid' between Excalibur Steel UK and Liberty House 'completely untrue'

Credit: PA

A deal between Excalibur Steel UK and Liberty House to buy the Tata Steel UK operation is "completely untrue", ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills has been told.

The "all-British bid" between the two companies was thought to have been to allow Excalibur access to what one source describes as "the deep pockets" of Liberty House, while in turn they would benefit from working closely with the team who have been seen as the front-runners from the outset of the sales process.

The rumour had emerged ahead of the planned Tata board meeting in Mumbai this week to whittle down the seven bids for the ailing steel operation.

The sale includes the huge Port Talbot plant and 15,000 jobs across the UK.

Government workers strike over plans to close Sheffield office

Government workers were on the picket line in Sheffield for a one day strike over the loss of 250 posts.

The staff from the Business, Innovation and Skills Department could lose their jobs with the posts relocating to London. Unions say there is no justification for the move.

96 percent of workers voted to strike over the move which the Government says the move is to reduce costs and modernise working practices.

We are not getting any rationale or reasoning that we think stacks up. It will cost money to move our jobs to London, it will lose key expertise on policy development and obviously and significantly will have a huge impact in terms of the community in Sheffield

– Marion Lloyd, Public and Commercial Services Union

Seven expressions of interest for Tata Steel’s UK business through to the next stage

The Board of Tata Steel Europe has announced that seven expressions of interest submitted for Tata Steel’s UK business, including its plants in South Yorkshire, have been immediately taken forward to the next stage of the sale process.

In addition, Tata Steel Europe is clarifying outstanding points with a number of other parties who have submitted an expression of interest.

We have been pleased with the response to the initial stage of the global sales process for Tata Steel’s UK business. Today’s announcement by Tata Steel Europe marks another important stage gate in this process. The expressions of interest received have been through a robust initial assessment process with inputs received from the UK Government whose views have been considered by the Board.

We believe that the bids being taken forward offer future prospects of sustainability for the UK business as a whole. The sales process will continue as announced earlier in an expedited and robust manner to deliver greater clarity for all key stakeholders such as employees, customers and suppliers.

Whilst the sales process continues, Tata Steel’s business in the UK under the new leadership team continues to focus on the business performance.

– Koushik Chatterjee, Group Executive Director (Finance and Corporate) of Tata Steel Limited
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