West Midlands Mayor backs British steel for building projects as 860 tonnes set for expansion of region’s metro
The Mayor of the West Midlands has committed to using British steel in all major building projects - with 860 tonnes set for the expansion of the region’s metro.
Andy Street has become the first metro mayor in Britain to sign up to the UK steel charter in a move to promote UK-made steel in the region and support the economy.
He said there were “lots of opportunities” for West Midlands-based firms to purchase domestic steel and has called on companies to commit themselves “wherever possible” to UK steel jobs.
The mayor visited and opened the first production line at Marcegaglia, a new refurbished steel manufacturer in Oldbury, on Wednesday to shine a spotlight on the West Midlands-made steel.
The 860 tonnes of steel will be used to extend the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill tram line which was delayed last year.
The first phase of the Dudley line connecting Wednesbury to Dudley began last year, but the second phase linking Dudley and Merry Hill was stalled.
However, £60 million was secured in the devolution deal as part of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget.
The mayor, who is also chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “By signing the UK steel charter, we’re signalling our commitment to back British steel – supporting well paid and highly skilled manufacturing jobs and training opportunities that will benefit local people right across our region.
“This initiative can help to increase the amount of high quality steel manufactured in Britain and increase the supply of British made steel contributing to key West Midlands projects.
“I very much hope our decision will encourage others to follow suit – impacting positively on the supply chain, our region and indeed the wider UK economy in the months and years ahead."
The steel charter, first set up in 2019, supports the UK steel industry in its efforts to change the way it procures steel to include more domestic products.
The charter encourages signatories – government administrations, local authorities, and private sector – to publicly signal their commitment to using UK steel in major projects.
UK steelmakers could supply industries such as energy, transport, and construction, with steel worth up to £3.8 billion a year by 2030.
The UK’s steel sector employs 39,800 people directly and supports a further 50,000 in supply chains.
It comes as government data for 2022-23 shows of the total £603 million spent on steel in the past year, £365 million was UK-produced.
The West Midlands has a strong industrial heritage, with the region is home to at least 15 sites manufacturing, processing and handling steel.
Marcegaglia UK, based in Sheffield, acquired the Oldbury site in 2021.
An investment programme worth £32 million is under way at the site, creating an additional 70 jobs in the region on top of the 175 the company employs.
The scheme will bring capacity to manufacture steel not produced domestically, allowing for more UK-made steel to be used in projects of all kinds.
Gareth Stace, director general of UK Steel, said: “We welcome Mayor Street’s pledge to use UK-made steel for his construction projects right across the West Midlands. Mayor Street is already making good on his pledge, by ensuring British produced steel is being used for his celebrated metro rail extension.
“All major construction and engineering projects both here in the West Midlands and throughout the UK will reap benefits from purchasing steel that is made, processed, and delivered here in Britain.
“Why expose your project to the whims of unpredictable global supply chains, when you have the option of a reliable local business to partner with, throughout the lifetime of your project? Using UK steel is quite simply a win-win for everyone.”
Nick Haycock, general manager of Marcegaglia UK, said: “We are proud to be the UK’s leading providers of precision carbon welded tubes, having been founded over 30 years ago. With year-on-year investment, Marcegaglia UK now produces 110,000 tonnes of welded tubes.
“With the recent and more substantial investment, Marcegaglia UK is making is a great opportunity for the UK and our local West Midlands region to boost jobs and economic growth as we develop our capacity.
“On top of this, Marcegaglia acquired upstream manufacturing facilities in Sheffield this year. This primary stainless steel making asset is worth several hundreds of millions to the UK economy. The investment in this facility means a return to full capacity of 500,000 tonnes of steel.
“The UK has now become the second most important country for the Marcegaglia Group.
"Producing our steel tubular products here means UK-made steel is supplying national projects like HS2. It is now crucial to create a robust UK industrial strategy to support the competitiveness of the UK steel industry, to preserve and develop production and increase employment, also in view of the export flows requirements.”