More business support needed in wake of floods says steel firm

Chancellor George Osborne, centre, visits Pulman Steel, Sowerby Bridge in 2015. With managing director David Shoesmith, left, and Halifax PPC Philip Allott.
Chancellor George Osborne, centre, visits Pulman Steel, Sowerby Bridge in 2015. With managing director David Shoesmith, left, and Halifax PPC Philip Allott.
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THE head of a steel firm, which was visited by George Osborne during the last two general election campaigns, has called on the Government to provide more support to Yorkshire businesses after the Boxing Day floods wiped out over £2m of stock and machinery at its premises.

Mr Osborne last visited Pulman Steel in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, in April 2015 to talk about his “long term economic plan for our country and for Yorkshire”.

However, he has been widely criticised for not publicly supporting the 2,000-plus affected businesses in the region.

He has also been accused of jeopardising Britain’s crumbling flood defences over the past five years by prioritising cuts to the deficit. Officials estimate £30m needs to be spent on flood defences in Calderdale but there is a funding gap of £15m.

David Shoesmith, managing director of Pulman Steel, said: “I want to know what the Government is going to do about the rivers in this valley and the flood defences.

“We have had no contact from them at all. If they said they were going to look at this and put a plan in place to make sure it was never going to happen again, at least there would be some communication.

“Arguably it would also be nice to know that they were going to cancel or at least defer VAT payments.”

He added: “It would be nice at some point if George Osborne acknowledged what has happened to us.

“We are not political but the Government could be talking to us, and to all of industry, in this region, in the Northern Powerhouse.”

Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax who spoke in a Parliamentary debate on the floods, visited the stockholder in the aftermath of the floods with Kerry McCarthy, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Ms Lynch has also written to the Chancellor inviting him on a return visit to Pulman Steel.

The company, which dates back to 1830, is a supplier to a number of key Northern Powerhouse infrastructure projects. Its steel has also been used in the front door of the Bank of England and at Wembley Stadium. This is the first time it has been flooded in its 31 years at the site.

“It is of strategic importance to the North and beyond that it is up and running,” Ms Lynch said. “I ask the Chancellor to put his high-vis and his hard hat back on and to come and discuss with Pulman Steel how its situation has changed and what his team could be doing to support it as a key player in our local economy.”

Much of the company’s warehouse and office space was damaged as well as a number of wagons, saws and plasma machines. Up to 80 per cent of its stock was also written off. The firm usually stocks around 1,800 tonnes of steel.

Chris Horner, finance director, said: “We are still open for business. We built our business on service and our sales team is trying to keep in touch with customers.”

The Treasury did not respond to a request for comment.