Lifelines for Fife Remploy factories

The Remploy factory in Leven.
The Remploy factory in Leven.

Two possible buyers for Fife’s closure-threatened Remploy factories have been identified.

The names of the companies considering bids for the sites in Leven and Cowdenbeath will be handed to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith on Wednesday.

Fife MPs Lindsay Roy, Thomas Docherty and Gordon Brown approached the firms in question and discussed the bids with them.

They will now take the matter on at a crunch meeting with Mr Duncan Smith, at which they will also present a business plan providing new evidence of a shortfall on Government funding to help the factories break even.

The MPs believe the Leven and Cowdenbeath factories can be saved but claim the Government’s post-privatisation support plan is “miserly, inadequate and will lead to massive redundancies or closure” unless it is amended.

In a joint statement, they said: “We now have two possible buyers whom we have talked to and who can be persuaded to make final bids as long as there is a realistic chance of viability.

“We have the chance of preventing manufacturing work moving out of Britain to Asia, but tomorrow Mr Duncan Smith will have to announce he will do more.”

The MPs will show that the factories’ order books of 30,000 marine life jackets can be increased to nearly 40,000, but demonstrate that to break even this year and next the annual cost per employee is £17,500.

However, the existing post-privatisation support on offer per employee is just £3,000 for the first year and £3,400 over the following two years.

The MPs say that overall Government support of £1.6 million in the financial year ending in 2012 is being reduced to less than £140,000 a year across the coming three years.

However, say the politicians, the factories have a full order book and the prospect of expansion if their future can be assured.

As a result, the politicians have sought to convene a meeting at Westminster with the UK and Scottish governments and Fife Council. Scottish enterprise minister Fergus Ewing will attend.

The three MPs say a doubling of transitional help from the UK and Scottish Governments is needed to save the two 60-year-old factories, which provide employment for disabled workers.

They say it would be economic madness to allow two factories with full order books, a world-renowned product and the possibility of a 25% rise in sales to go under and that the jobs could be lost to Asia.

With a well-supported transition package, the factories can become not only financially viable but also a major manufacturing success story.

But, they argue, it is impossible overnight to turn a loss of £1.6m in 2011 and £800,000 in 2010 into immediate profitability, so enhanced transitional arrangements are needed.


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