Hopes rest on rescue deal

POLITICIANS on all sides say they are devastated at news that Lynemouth’s Alcan smelter may close.

Local county councillor Milburn Douglas said he hopes a rescue deal will come forward through the sale of the plant, but the situation is worrying for the whole of south east Northumberland.

“We are devastated. It is a sorry day for the whole area,” he said.

“We knew there were things going on behind the scenes and everybody knew it was up for sale, but just to announce it like this has hit everybody hard.

“I have spoken to quite a lot of people who work there and the lads at the sharp end are worried about what is going to happen to their families and mortgages if they lose their jobs. There are also small garages and shops that depend on the livelihoods of these people for their businesses and if they haven’t got the jobs it will hit other parts of the community as well.

“We all need to rally round and look very closely at what the future might hold and how we can keep Alcan open.”

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, whose constituency stretches to just north of the site, says he hopes that a buyer is found, but if a sale can not be secured Government support and Enterprise Zone status will be vital.

He said: “Rio Tinto has obviously calculated that aluminium can be produced in countries where energy is cheaper and environmental protection is taken much less seriously. This is a worldwide problem and international action needs to be taken if climate-damaging technologies are not going to be simply exported to less regulated parts of the world.

“I will be pressing Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and Business Secretary Vince Cable to do all they can to facilitate the sale of the power station to a new operator and any potential sale of the smelter, but if closure is the outcome of this divestment I believe the whole former mining area from Blyth to Amble should be given Enterprise Zone status and many other measures will be needed.

“This news will not surprise people who have been close to the Rio Tinto Alcan situation, but it is a very bad day indeed for Northumberland.”

North East Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall said: “This is potentially devastating news.

“Along with others, I have been working very closely with the management at Alcan over recent years to try to safeguard the future of the plant. As the biggest employer in Northumberland its importance cannot be overstated and I know the Government has been determined to provide all the help that it can.

“Obviously the immediate concern lies with the workers and their family, who have had their future thrown into doubt with this announcement.

“I will be seeking talks with all parties concerned to try to find a way of preserving these vital jobs.”

Conservative MEP Martin Callanan said: “This is very sad news and it is extremely frustrating that EU and UK environmental laws have ruined this operation’s ability to compete in a global market. I am sorry to say I have been warning of this danger for the last few years.

“Industry in the UK still needs aluminium, but infuriatingly the demand will instead be met by companies outside the EU who are free to work unhindered by such crippling environmental laws.

“The planet will be no cleaner or safer, but we will have exported 650 high-quality industrial jobs from an area that badly needs them.”

Northumberland County Council Leader Jeff Reid said the authority is standing by to help.

“It would be a very sad decision if the Alcan plant were to close,” he said.

“We are aware of the circumstances and we have been in discussion with the company and central government with regard to the future of Alcan.

“We are discussing plans for the various scenarios concerning the site and its employees. We continue to be in close contact with the company.”