Labour and Tory concerns over future of potash mine

Scarborough Council’s Labour leader has urged the prime minister to take immediate action to secure the future of the potash mine near Whitby.

Cllr Steve Siddons said he had invited Boris Johnson to a meeting  to discuss the situation with other government ministers, local MPs Robert Goodwill, Anna Turney and Simon Clarke, the Teesside mayor and potash firm Sirius.

He said: “We need to know how the Government can support this vital project, ensuring it delivers the prosperity and well-paid jobs so urgently needed in the area”.

Sirus has cancelled plans to raise £403m through a bond sale, blaming market conditions including Brexit and a lack of Government support. It is undergoing a six-month review of four options for a new financing plan to resume the project.

The company’s share price plummeted and raised doubts over the future of the mine, which was expected to create over 1,000 jobs.

Cllr Siddons said he wants the prime minister to show he is committed to the North and save the project. He said: “Boris has spent much of the last few weeks touring the northern heartlands recognising the devastation caused by years of austerity and lack of investment. It’s time for him to put his money where his mouth is and ensure this project delivers on its promise to the people of North Yorkshire.

“This project has the potential to grow the North Yorkshire economy by 17%, provide a £2.3 billion annual contribution to GDP, as well as provide significant benefits locally, including the creation of about 1,000 direct high-value jobs within the area and an estimated 1,500 further jobs within the local supply chain”.

Cllr Siddons’ colleague Hugo Fearnley, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Scarborough & Whitby, was more scathing: “Like many in this constituency, I am shocked and dismayed at the lack of action from the Tories. Vital employment opportunities and economic growth for the people of Whitby, Scarborough and Teesside are now at risk”.

He said the Government and MPs Robert Goodwill and Simon Clarke “love to trumpet the northern powerhouse but their lack of action for the people of this area is there for all to see once again. Mr Johnson said he was committed to supporting the North but he’s turned his back on us at his first test, putting thousands of jobs at risk. Labour would work with Sirius to examine the support a Labour government could provide”.

Mr Goodwill said he had been in contact with the company on an almost daily basis over the last few weeks and had spoken to the prime minister about Sirius. “He was well briefed and understood the issues”, he said, adding that he had lobbied treasury ministers including the chief secretary and liaised with the Tees Valley mayor.

“The last time Sirius wanted financial assistance, I raised it with Mrs May at prime minister’s questions”, Mr Goodwill said. He said the Treasury had refused to help and Sirius had got a funding package through Morgan Stanley. “At that time, concerns were raised that Sirius should look for an established mining concern to partner up with. As a one project company, all the eggs were in one basket.

“I am disappointed that the Government has not chosen to take the unprecedented step of intervening but will do everything I can as the local MP to assist the company to secure new investors or partners”, Mr Goodwill said.