MPs call for action to bring new jobs

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MPS will demand immediate intervention from the Government to bring new jobs to Northumberland.

The calls come following the news that Rio Tinto Alcan will close its Lynemouth smelter, putting 515 people out of work.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery says the closure will have a devastating impact on an area which already has the second highest rate in the UK for the numbers of workers chasing each vacancy advertised at Jobcentre Plus.

Figures show that 55.5 people in Wansbeck are applying for every job available.

Mr Lavery said: “If there are 55.4 people after each Jobcentre vacancy advertised now, how on earth are we going to survive with the closure of Alcan and people losing their jobs not just there, but in the supply chain as well? It is going to be very difficult indeed.

“I have called for an urgent meeting with Vince Cable and Employment Minister Chris Grayling and I have written to the Prime Minister outlining the desperate situation facing south east Northumberland.

“I’m looking for them to do anything they can. I need an urgent meeting with them and they need to tell me what they can do.

“We want employment, we want jobs in the region, we want small and medium-sized enterprises to come into the region, we want businesses to be incentivised to come into the region, we want good employment levels and I want them to tell me how that can be achieved.”

The MP said the area has still not recovered from the closure of the pits and the Alcan closure will bring even more hardship.

“The closure of Alcan is going to have a devastating impact on the community. There will be over 500 people unemployed and these are local people in skilled jobs with good wages. That is going to be a big loss to the local economy, millions of pounds will be lost over the next two or three years,” he said.

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“South east Northumberland has not recovered from the closure of the pits, there hasn’t been any heavy industry coming in. We are surviving by the likes of the NHS, council jobs and other public sector jobs, but we have lost a lot of those because of the Government’s policy of cuts.

“We are haemorrhaging jobs left, right and centre and there have been no jobs created.

“In the short term the people at Alcan will have their redundancy payments, but that money won’t last long at all. It is essential that we get employment into the area and I will do everything I possibly can to achieve that.”

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, who represents the area north of Morpeth, said that extending Enterprise Zone status to Northumberland will help the situation, but he will be speaking to Ministers about further support.

“I have been in regular discussions with senior management at Rio Tinto Alcan about what the company would provide if the smelter had to close. Its legacy, after 40 years of support from the people of Northumberland, must focus on giving real benefits to the local communities near the plant and to the workforce.

“I am pushing it to press ahead with plans for providing training and business opportunities for its workers. We also need to ensure other organisations in the area can get involved if there is an opportunity for them to help. I know that the Response Group at Northumberland County Council has been working hard to put support in place and I am having talks with the Leader of the council about where we go next.

“The extension of the North East Enterprise Zone to Northumberland will create opportunities in the future, but we need help now to bridge the gap until the zone is up and running and I will be speaking to Government Ministers about what help we can expect.

“In the meantime, I am working with the company and Government Ministers to secure the future of the power station, which employs another 120 people.”

North East MEP Fiona Hall also voiced concern about the Alcan closure.

“While this news is not unexpected, it is devastating for those directly affected and for Northumberland as a whole to have the job losses confirmed,” she said.

“Considerable effort has gone into keeping the plant operational over recent years, but the difficult conditions of the global market have made that impossible. I met with a representative of Rio Tinto Alcan in Brussels who highlighted that other of its plants worldwide are also facing closure. The current difficulties are not confined to the UK or Europe.

“We now face the very urgent task of ensuring the people who are about to lose their job have a training scheme or employment opportunity available to them.

“I will continue to press the Government and the company to do all they can to help the local community. Job losses on this scale deserve special measures in response to help people get back to work.”