October 16: Putting steel back into Redcar

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THE contrast could not have been greater. As the last shift ended at Redcar’s now desolate steelworks, and the gates slammed shut for a final time, bickering politicians were squabbling in the House of Commons about the Government’s response – and whether its undertakings constituted new money or not.

This should not be about elected politicians trying to score cheap points off their opponents; this will do nothing to help those 1,700 people who now find themselves on the dole queue or the supply firms facing an equally uncertain future because of lost contracts. The challenge is making sure that Business Minister Anna Soubry, a serial heckler of Labour during Prime Minister’s Questions, does not renege upon her promise that “no worker will be left behind”.

Not only is the switching off of the furnaces symbolic of manufacturing’s decline in Britain, but the closure will have a cataclysmic impact on the local community unless Ms Soubry keeps to her word. With James Wharton, the Minister for the Northern Powerhouse representing the nearby seat of Stockton South, the effectiveness of the Government’s response will help determine whether this vision is for real – or just hot air.

It does not end here. It is a timely opportunity for the European Union to demonstrate that it can work in Britain’s favour – it has funds to help deprived communities and they need to be made available to Redcar without delay – while Labour needs to be pragmatic with his response rather than fighting ideological battles over nationalisation.

In doing so, the political elite should take its lead from South Yorkshire – and those communities still scarred by the coal closure programme of 30 years ago. Because the political response descended into a war of words, these areas were left to rot and they are only now showing some signs of revival. Knowing this, it would be scandalous if Redcar was now to suffer a similar fate.

Morals of business: 10 years of excellence celebrated

SOME businesses are born in a flash of genius. Others come about through years of dogged toil.

There’s no single path to business success. However, nobody can doubt that Yorkshire is blessed with entrepreneurs who can prosper in times of opportunity and adversity.

When The Yorkshire Post launched the Excellence in Business Awards in 2006, there didn’t seem to be a cloud in the economic sky. Cranes dotted the skylines of all our major cities. Many consumers and businesses were spending freely and some people really believed that we had said “goodbye” to the era of boom and bust. The crash of 2008 proved that this was a delusion. Many of the big banks had behaved recklessly, and too many people had been living beyond their means.

Remarkably, our flagship business awards continued to prosper. The 10th Excellence in Business Awards ceremony offered an opportunity to celebrate our region’s innate resilience, and consider the lessons learned over the past decade.

In a break with tradition, the keynote speech was delivered by a leading churchman, instead of a politician. It was entirely fitting that the address was delivered by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who told his audience 
that ethical behaviour should be at the core of all businesses.

This ethical leadership must come from the boardroom. It was a lack of moral fibre that caused much of the economic chaos of the last decade. As the awards enter their next decade, we must salute all those Yorkshire firms who never lost their moral compass.

End of an era at heritage railway

IT HELPED that trains were already in the DNA of Philip Benham when his career changed direction 12 years ago and he took the helm of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. For, without his passion, this idyllic route form Pickering to Whitby would not be flourishing as the most popular heritage steam railway in the world.

With characteristic modesty, he has attributed the line’s revival – it continues to attract upwards of 300,000 passengers a year – to his equally committed team of staff and volunteers, but it is Mr Benham’s leadership which has been instrumental in getting this redoubtable railway back on track. Not only did it have the honour of carrying the Olympic torch in 2012, but it is has provided a spectacular backdrop to the Harry Potter films and to timeless TV programmes like Heartbeat. This is important. For, without such exposure, this corner of North Yorkshire – and this railway in particular – would not have become such a magnet for tourists.