A SPECIAL task force meets for the first time today in a bid to find alternative work for hundreds of redundant steel workers and communities devastated by the job cuts.

The group was set up following the announcement by Corus, formerly British Steel, that more than 750 jobs are to go at its Grangetown Research Centre and its Lackenby and Redcar works, Teesside.

The task force holds its first meeting at Eston Town Hall this afternoon in the wake of urgent talks with Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers.

Joining the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Ashok Kumar, around the table today will be leading members of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and representatives of a range of Government departments, the regional development agency, One NorthEast, Tees Valley Development Company and Tees Valley Training and Enterprise Council.

Top of the agenda will be how efforts can be coordinated to help find new jobs for steel workers facing redundancy while at the same time boosting regeneration programmes in the area.

Councillor David Walsh, leader of Redcar and Cleveland council said: "It is particularly important that Stephen Byers has thrown his weight behind the task force, and at today's meeting we shall be looking at the immediate needs of those workers and families affected by the Corus job cuts."

Dr Kumar said the Government's agreement that the Brotton area will qualify for help under the Assisted Area programme, coupled with the work of the task force, would help attract new businesses to the area.