BUSINESS leaders, politicians and the press are piling pressure on the Government to produce a package of measures to protect Northumberland from an economic slump caused by massive job losses, including 515 just announced at Rio Tinto Alcan.
The closure of the company’s smelting plant at Lynemouth not only affects a jobs market stretching from Amble to Blyth, but is also expected to deal a crushing blow to 3,000 workers employed county-wide in support industries.
Northumberland has already suffered massive public sector upheaval following the restructuring of the county council, with swingeing budget cuts resulting in over 1,300 posts being axed following local government reorganisation in 2009.
Amble has also felt the brunt of the recession with the loss of one of its biggest employer, Northumberland Foods, which finally closed its doors in March after almost two years of agonising uncertainty.
In total, more than 230 jobs were lost in that period.
North Northumberland MP Sir Alan Beith was due to meet Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable last night for further discussions on how the Government can help the Lynemouth area in the wake of the Alcan announcement.
One possibility is the establishing of Enterprise Zones, which benefit from incentives like rate relief.
He has also met leaders and senior management from the business, Northumberland County Council and Euro MP for the North East, Fiona Hall.
Sir Alan said: “We are all working together to try and secure support for the area, following the news that Rio Tinto Alcan are ending their world-wide aluminium operations.
“I will be discussing proposals including enhanced capital allowances for businesses in the area, business rate discounts and other measures to encourage companies to come to the Lynemouth area and get the benefit of our highly trained and skilled workers.
“I understand Rio Tinto Alcan are continuing their efforts to sell the power station as a separate business and I hope this will go ahead, but this does not take anything away from the case for Government support for the area.
“We must do everything we can to find alternative work for the dedicated employees at the smelter and others in the area, such as those who used to work at Northumberland Foods in Amble, who are looking for jobs.”
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery was also in London yesterday to speak to Dr Cable.
He said: “I will be asking for him to ensure that if we can find someone interested in the plant, the Government will come forward with a package to help them buy it.”
Northeast Press, publisher of the Morpeth Herald, has pledged its support to the regional effort to persuade the Government to act quickly and decisively.
Managing director Stuart Birkett said; “With the right kind of assistance from Government, Northumberland’s business community and public sector agencies will work together to help deliver success to anyone seeking employment or thinking of starting their own business.”