STEELMAKING, along with other giants like the railways and chemicals, is one of the foundations our region was built on. It is a part of our history, but not something we should give up on now.

Three years after the devastating closure of SSI, the people of Teesside are yet again being shafted by predatory investors, and a Government seemingly unwilling to pull their finger out to help local workers.

When Greybull Capital bought British Steel for just £1, I believe they saw an opportunity to strip the company of value. Since 2016, the London-based financiers have taken over £40m out of British Steel in management fees and interest charges alone, while offering just £1m to save the company when things started to go wrong. They overleveraged the business with debt and are now laughing all the way to the bank while 700 local workers are worried about their futures.

Over the past few days I have been in constant contact with the Government to ask them to do everything in their power to keep our profitable plants at Lackenby and Skinningrove open. My position has been abundantly clear: no legal option to save British Steel should be off the table. Whether this involves private capital, public subsidy or temporary nationalisation – we must place our people and our economy before ideology.

After last week’s announcement I acted immediately to convene a task force, and invited all Members of Parliament and council leaders from across the Tees Valley, as well as British Steel, representatives of relevant Government departments, the Official Receiver, and other relevant stakeholders.

It was important to get people of all views around the table, make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the situation, and agree a common plan of action for the coming days and weeks.

At the time of writing this I can confirm that no job losses have been announced and all staff will be paid in full and on time. Furthermore, a hefty Government-backed indemnity is in place meaning British Steel will continue to operate as a going concern.

Network Rail have confirmed they have paid all outstanding invoices to help with cash flow issues, and the Secretary of State for Business has confirmed that potential buyers have already been in touch. Separately, I am already in discussions with local investors to see if British Steel’s profitable plants on Teesside can be saved.

In our region we know that working together and standing up for our interests is our only chance at securing a positive outcome. People are looking to the region’s politicians for leadership and I am determined not let them down.

My one and only priority as mayor is to ensure that local jobs are protected and livelihoods are secure. I don’t care if this means going after the sharks behind British Steel’s demise, or calling for more action from a government that has so far let us down.

At times like this party loyalties don’t matter. This is about everyone pulling together and fighting for our region. As far as I’m concerned, I won’t let what happened with SSI in 2015 happen again.

Ben Houchen is the directly-elected Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley