Why aren’t the Environment Agency supporting UK steel industry

This week sees the sad and shock announcement that Redcar steel works in the North East of England has been put into liquidation threatening 2,200 jobs.

Given the enormous, ongoing massive investments in building new  flood defences, why is the Environment Agency continuing to source steel from abroad?

I’ve repeatedly put this question to the Environment Agency since 2013. My most recent request being in early August.

Thus far, no explanation.

I don’t think that’s good enough, do you?

Why are we buying steel from the Netherlands and beyond when we have steel plants here in the UK which are now facing closure owing to lack of sustainable orders?

Surely even if UK steel plants aren’t as competitive as elsewhere in the world, we should still support our home-grown industries – after all – what’s the likely cost of the lost of 2,200 jobs on the economy, let alone the costs of the loss of other ancillary businesses that will be undoubtedly be forced to close their doors also?

There may be a very good reason for why the Environment Agency doesn’t buy from UK steel plants.

But if so, why are they so reluctant to tell us?

The steel used to construct Littlehampton’s new flood defences was shipped from the suppliers in the Netherlands and the contract to build Littlehampton’s defences was awarded to the Dutch company, VolkerStevin.

It seems not only are the Environment Agency unwilling to support the struggling UK steel industry, but also continue to award highly lucrative construction contracts to companies outside of the UK.

Gareth Stace, Director of Trade Association of UK Steel  says they’re operating in an unsustainable situation. He says: “Chinese imports were 2pc of UK steel demand in the first half of 2011, that’s expected to be 8pc this year. Britain’s steel makers also face a strong pound, high energy costs, environmental levies and high business rates that foreign competitors don’t.”

So ironically, the UK’s steel industry is facing unfair and punitive environmental levies and extortionate business rates.

Why are UK industries having to pay punitive environmental tax levies, while their competitors don’t?

Why are we the UK tax payer funding the Environment Agencies extensive flood defence building schemes, when the steel and construction contracts are not being awarded to UK companies?

Surely we’re better off paying higher prices for steel sourced in the UK than paying the financial and social costs of massive job losses – particularly in area of the UK where jobs aren’t easy to find.

And as for the low carbon footprint nonsense

The Environment Agency made great play of the fact that they had insisted the steel for use in Littlehampton’s flood defences be transported by ship from the Netherlands as opposed to by road – thereby significantly reducing the project’s carbon foot print.

Walter HammannAbove steel arriving by ship from the Netherlands and being offloaded in River Road.

Once the steel arrived in Littlehampton harbour it was stored in Littlehamton Harbour Board’s storage area in River Road.

However, it’s here the Environment Agency’s low-carbon footprint plans fell apart.

In order to transport the steel from River Road to Pier Road (less than a mile) a road haulage company was appointed. Not a local based haulage company, but a London based company.

So for a over a year all the steel was transported from River Road to Pier Road – distance less than a mile – by a company who had to drive to and from London each time a batch of steel had to be moved.

A distance of over 112 miles driven for each occasion the steel had to be moved a distance of less than a mile.

Yet, Littlehampton is home to a number of quality transport companies.

How’s that for ensuring a ‘low carbon footprint.’?

Pretty much all hire vehicles/plant and machinery used for the construction of the flood defences came from Essex and beyond as the Environment Agency operate a ‘central procurement policy’ which means that they couldn’t source anything locally in Littlehampton as Littlehampton (and surrounding businesses) were not on the pre-agreed approved procurement list for contractors.

So even the most basic piece of plant machinery had to be transported relatively great distances by road in order to comply with the Environment Agency’s buying policy which is clearly at odds with the Environment Agency’s green credentials.

Our thoughts are with those facing loosing their jobs and a uncertain future at Redcar Steel works.

 

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