Lord Heseltine to lead drive to find jobs for axed Teesside steel workers

Lord Heseltine, who will front the Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative. Credit: PA

A new inward investment programme aimed at helping find jobs for steelworkers in a region hit by a wave of redundancies, is to be chaired by Lord Heseltine.

The former deputy prime minister will head up the Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative, which will work to boost economic growth and attract foreign investment.

The area has been hit by the crisis in the steel industry, with thousands ofjob losses announced in recent weeks at plants including the SSI site inRedcar.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: "The closure of the SSI Steelworks plant was a huge blow to local people. On top of the up to #80 million package of direct support, we are determined to do all we can to secure long-term growth for the area and people of Teesside.

"Michael has a record of getting things done. He has a wealth of experience of working closely with local communities, business acumen and passion forinvestment and regeneration, and it's a real coup he's agreed to take on thisjob."

David Cameron listens as Lord Heseltine speaks at the launch of the Cities Taskforce, June 2007. Credit: PA

Lord Heseltine said: "It is a great honour to be asked to help with theGovernment response to the sad events in the steel industry in Teesside."

Michael Blench, GMB regional officer, said: "We have had a series ofdevastating blows on the jobs front on Teesside. The 1,700 job losses at Redcar steel works and the 700 job losses at Air Products were followed by yesterday's devastating blow of 360 jobs to go at Boulby potash mine.

"For Lord Heseltine to be parachuted in to the North is an insult. Just acouple of weeks ago it was Lord Heseltine who said insensitively that it was as good a time as any for UK steelworkers to lose their jobs. It is all right forthe inhabitants of rich parliamentary ivory towers to say that.

"In the real world Tory policy is creating a Northern Poor House."