Report by Rachel Bullock
More than 200 steel jobs in Hartlepool hang in the balance after the financial firm which backs the Liberty Steel group filed for administration.
Liberty owns a pipe mill in the town which employs around 250 workers. A spokesperson for the company that owns the business says operations are running as normal and employees are being kept up to date with developments.
Back in 2017, Sanjeev Gupta was named the 'Savour of Steel' when he bought Hartlepool's pipe mill, adding it to his portfolio of 11 UK Liberty sites, employing 5000 people.
Four years on, Mr Gupta's steel empire is in danger of buckling beneath the weight of heavy borrowing.
Its main lender has appointed administrators after falling into what it describes as 'severe financial distress'. It important to reiterate that it's not Liberty Steel itself that's run in to difficulty, but the financial firm that it borrows money from.
Unions are urging swift action to find new investors and avoid highly-skilled job losses in the process.
In a joint statement on Liberty Steel, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and leader of Hartlepool Council Shane Moore, said:
"Right now our priority is the workers of Liberty Steel in Hartlepool during this time of uncertainty. We are monitoring the situation closely and have held talks with GFG Alliance - Liberty Steel's parent company. Currently, Liberty Steel continues to operate and trade as normal. Liberty’s Hartlepool pipe mills are the biggest in the UK making them a hugely important strategic asset that, over the past few years, have allowed the plant to land a number of major global contracts. This is testament to the hard work and dedication of the plants hugely skilled workforce and we will do all we can to protect these skilled, well paid jobs.”