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28 October 2014

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Floods January 2005

McVities sign in Carlisle
McVities in Carlisle

What now for biscuit making in Carlisle?

For over 170 years the biscuit factory in Carlisle has made some of the most popular snacks - but is the future now in doubt at McVities?


A timeline for the biscuit factory
Carr's of Carlisle was founded in 1831
Royal Appointment from Queen Victoria came in 1842
1972 Joined United Biscuits

Top five Ginger Nut facts:
· 285,600 biscuits are made per hour
· 6,854,400 biscuits are made per day
· If all the biscuits made in a year were set out side by side, they would circle the Earth 2.5 times.
· Ginger Nuts are regarded as 'the pinnacle of dunking perfection'.
· Ginger has traditionally been used for curing ailments from colds to nausea and treatment of digestive disorders.

United Biscuits, the parent company of McVities,  has recently increased the range currently produced at the Carlisle factory, to include McVitie's Ginger Nuts, Rich Tea Fingers, Munchbites, Penguin Flipper Dipper, Coconut Rings, Rich Highland Shorties, 60mm Digestive biscuits, Malted Milk and Shortcakes.

The recent floods in Carlisle have caused millions of pounds of damage to many properties and factories in the county.

One of the largest employers in Carlisle, the McVities biscuit factory, was one of the first major casualties as the waters rose on that January morning.

The factory, in the Caldewgate area of the city, employs over 1000 staff making millions of biscuits a year including the famous Ginger Nut.

The water swept through many areas of the food preparation areas, closing the factory, damaging equipment and leaving a thick layer of dirt, filth and grime covering  everything almost up to first floor level. The future of the factory was put at risk.

The McVities carpark after the water has gone.
Abandoned cars and sludge in the carpark

A tense few days passed whilst electricity was restored and access could be safely made to assess the cost of the damage and the length of time the factory may remain closed.

Would the residents of the city, already facing being flooded from their houses, face the loss of their jobs as well?

Should it stay or should it go?

For over 170 years the production lines have produced biscuits and supported the local economy, but with the combination of the severe flooding - and the ability to make goods cheaper elsewhere in the world - the future of the factory is uncertain.

The parent company of McVities, United Biscuits, will no doubt be weighing up the public relations fallout and possible savings that the closure of the plant would bring, against the pouring millions of pounds in to the rebuilding of the plant and the security of a new modern factory, albeit still being on an area now known to flood. 

The final say as to the future of the factory will come down to the views of the shareholders and management,  as it is they who have to fund and organise the rebuilding however, money has recently been made available from the government to sweeten the thought process.

The North West Development Agency, a Government body responsible for economic development and regeneration, has promised £1m.  This money can be used to clean up or repair, or help the firm pay its wages.  The money is, however,  subject to McVities remaining in the city.

United Biscuits isn't the only local firm getting some kind of assistance from the government, although it is by far the biggest beneficiary so far.

Not going without a fight

Many of the staff at McVities are helping clean up the site and the local MP is backing the growing campaign to keep the factory open.

Paul Savage from the GMB trade union says the response by workers has been incredible.  Hear his comments via the link in the top right of the page.

The local MP, Eric Martlew, is pressing home the need in Westminster for the factory to remain in the city.   He believes the future looks much brighter in his comments and you can hear them using the link in the top right of this page.

last updated: 15/03/06
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