Agenda item


To receive a statement from the Leader of the Council in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.


The Leader stated that:


·        There had been sad news from Liberty Steel in the past week and thoughts were with all of those affected following the companies announcement of 440 potential redundancies including 185 potentially in Rotherham. The company was undertaking a 45 day consultation period and Council officers had met with senior members of staff to identify the support that the Council may be able to offer to individuals who were affected. The picture would become clearer as the consultation progressed. The potential job losses were very unwelcome news at what was already a very difficult time for the local economy. The Leader stated that all Members who had followed the fortunes of Liberty Steel over the years would hope that this was a difficult spell that would pass, and green steel production would continue on those plants.


·        The announcement at Liberty was not unrelated to the situation with the wider economy which was why the Mayor of South Yorkshire, Oliver Coppard, and the Leader were writing to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, urging the Government to take much more action. The 2 things they could do were to put in place a package of support for energy intensive industries and buy more British products.


·        Over Christmas, the Council funded the £30 supermarket vouchers scheme for families with nearly 12,000 local children entitled to benefits-related free school meals. In addition, the Christmas Hamper programme had supported 300 families across the Borough.


·        The Council had secured a “Money Saving Expert” column in the Rotherham Advertiser which would be authored every 2 weeks by an officer from the Council’s Financial Inclusion Team.


·        Just before Christmas the Council had been given an award from the DWP for its work on the KickStart Programme. The Council had taken on more KickStart work placements than any other employer in South Yorkshire. Of the over 60 people that took part, 25 had moved on to permanent employment with the Council which was a credit to both them and the staff that had worked to make that happen.


·        The Holocaust Memorial Day event would take place in All Saints Square from 11.30 a.m. – 12.00 Noon on Friday, 27th January, 2023.


In response to the statement, Councillor Bennett-Sylvester stated the strategic industries such as steel should be under public ownership not individual ownership and this was something the Government should look at. Councillor Bennett-Sylvester also stated that Liberty Steel had large land holdings in the Dalton, Thrybergh and Aldwarke area and asked the Leader if anything had been looked at with the South Yorkshire Mayor regarding using those holdings as potential employment sources to either utilise capital or income systems and bring in extra employment to an area which has significant deprivation and struggles to meet some of the new employment areas that had been developed?


Councillor Bacon stated that, in relation to Liberty Steel, the Government was working closely with the industry to secure a sustainable and competitive future. The Government was also providing extensive support totalling over £800 million since 2013 on top of support via the Energy Bill Support Scheme. He asked the Leader to further expand on how the Council would work with the Government on this to support those potentially affected or concerned? The Government had also confirmed that businesses would receive a discount on high energy bills until 31st March, 2024, with a substantially higher level of support provided to energy and trade intensive sectors.


Councillor Ball made a statement in relation to the Leaders comments that the Government should “buy British.” He stated that the Council laptops were from a Chinese company.


In response to Councillor Bennett-Sylvester, the Leader explained that he believed there needed to be a mixture of public/private ownership but agreed on the importance of Government intervention to safeguard those industries. In relation to land holdings, the Leader stated he was not aware of any specific works but would take the question away and provide a written response.


In response to Councillor Bacon, the Leader stated that parroting a party press release was not going to help the 185 people in Rotherham who stood to lose their jobs because the Government had not come in to make enough of a difference. That was what was happening in their lives and what was happening because of their employer. The Leader welcomed any steps the Government was taking to alleviate that, but it was not enough to parrot the party lines; something had to be done to recognise the reality of the people in Rotherham. The Leader wanted to meet with the Government and work together to keep those people in work.