In the immediate aftermath of this decision my thoughts are with the employees and their families. In the weeks ahead support will be made available via Jobcentre Plus Rapid Response Team to help those affected who may need to retrain and upskill. The Rapid Response Team have been successful in the past assisting many of those made redundant from SSI on Teesside to make the transition into alternative employment.
It is quite right that we question the reasons given by Walkers to justify the closure of the Peterlee factory. Walkers have indicated the decision will improve productivity and deliver savings, however, locating production facilities in the South will increase their transport costs to the North of England and Scotland.
I hope Walkers will also be honest about the improvements required to retain East Durham’s manufacturing competitiveness, such as investment in transport infrastructure, skills and training.
The structural weaknesses in our local economy are issues that I will continue to raise with Government Ministers and the Local Enterprise Partnership who are tasked with strengthening and expanding business and employment opportunities in East Durham.
The Business Minister states the Government have invested £379.6m in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, however, there is little practical evidence of this investment in East Durham. Ministers are quick to exalt Nissan, however, our manufacturing base is much wider than one specific industry, and their over-reliance of a single business as an example of regional success is a worrying feature of the Government’s rhetoric.
Words are cheap. What we need now is practical support, to help those at Walkers, but also to deliver the growth required to provide the jobs we need for the future.
However, whether it is housing, education, transport investment, local government funding or business support, the North East is being hit first and hit hardest with spending cuts that are kicking away the ladders of opportunity that a responsible government would be looking to build.
To see the Government’s response to my questions about manufacturing in East Durham and Walkers Crisps, please visit: theyworkforyou.com