Lancashire calls on government to protect county Rolls-Royce jobs – this is how

Lancashire County Council has made a cross-party call for a meeting between the Prime Minister, local authority leaders, company bosses and union officials at which a proposal will be put forward to bring nuclear reactor work to the site.

It follows recent announcements by the company that it is planning to cut 350 roles after deciding to move some of its jet engine fan blade production to Singapore, while another 140 roles could be lost with the transfer of work on aero-engine structures to a Spanish company.

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Rolls-Royce plant at Barnoldswick

The firm says that it has been hard hit by the impact of the pandemic on demand for commercial aviation products and services.

A motion by County Hall’s Labour opposition leader Azhar Ali found support from the ruling Conservative group and Liberal Democrats. As well as a meeting with Boris Johnson, it also seeks discussions with the defence secretary – and Wyre and Preston North MP – Ben Wallace over the possibility of transferring defence contracts to the Pendle plant.

County Cllr Ali described the proposed job cuts as “naïve and misguided” and called on the government to consider the effect of the move on the country’s strategic capabilities.

“This is not just about jobs in Barnoldswick, but the heart and soul of manufacturing in Lancashire. The supply chain will haemorrhage possibly thousands of jobs as a result of the action Rolls-Royce are taking.

“The government provides, I believe, £600m in support for [the production of] small modular nuclear reactors

“The solution is already there – repurpose the factory over a transition period to become a training centre and a centre of excellence for manufacturing of components for [those reactors].

“We have the skills at Barnoldswick and across Lancashire. We already have the education networks to support those jobs,” County Cllr Ali told a meeting of the full council.

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver said that he shared the “serious and deep concern” over the issue.

After suggesting some minor amendments to the wording of the motion – which were accepted – he added: “We must do all we can to mitigate the effect of any changes that come about – and the small nuclear reactors would be an ideal way to utilise the skills and move forward.”

The sole Green Party member of the authority said that while she, too, was concerned about the loss of jobs at the facility, she was disappointed at the suggestions for its future.

Gina Dowding said she would like the site to contribute to a “low carbon, peace-based economy”.

Rolls-Royce has said that it does not plan to close the Barnoldswick site, at which 520 jobs would remain if the proposed cuts are implemented. It has been reported that talks are ongoing between unions and the company over a proposal to save 169 roles from the tranche of 350 at risk.

“Following our proposal in August to relocate part of our fan blade manufacturing, Barnoldswick will be the home of a product development and technical support centre for wide chord fan blades and continue to manufacture blades for a range of defence and civil aerospace applications,” the company said in a statement earlier this month.

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