Arla Ashby-de-la-Zouch dairy axe plan puts 370 jobs at risk

Arla is owned by Danish, Swedish and German dairy farmers

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A dairy and distribution plant in Leicestershire is set to close, with the potential loss of up to 370 jobs.

Arla Foods said it wanted to move production from Ashby-de-la-Zouch to a new site in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Subject to a consultation process, the closure will start in October and be completed by April 2014.

The company said it would help workers find jobs inside and outside the firm but local politicians said the move was a blow for the area.

Arla, which is owned by Danish, Swedish and German dairy farmers, operates in 13 countries and employs about 17,000 people.

In the UK it produces Lurpak and Anchor butters, Cravendale milk and it also supplies various supermarket own brand milks.

'Devastating news'

Lars Dalsgaard, head of Arla UK's supply chain, said the move was part of the ongoing review of production sites.

Spilt Milk

Arla is among dairies involved in a long-running dispute with some British farmers over prices paid for milk.

Protests, including blockades of processing sites, have been lead by Farmers for Action which claims the prices paid do not cover costs.

But Arla said they had signed up to a code of practice to guarantee a fair deal and had raised the price paid by 1.7p a litre to 31.91p in May.

On 15 July, Farmers for Action met Arla to demand changes and described the negotiations as "tough".

The company then issued a warning the protests could potentially damage the livelihoods of its suppliers.

"We are entering into immediate and full consultation with all colleagues affected by our proposals and their trade union representatives.

"We are committed to helping colleagues potentially affected find suitable alternative employment, both internally and externally of Arla Foods.

"We will provide an on-site job shop facility and it is our intention to secure as many jobs as possible by relocating colleagues, wherever we can, to other sites, including Aylesbury."

John Coxson, county councillor for Ashby, said the news was a blow for the town.

"We have a small population compared to some towns and cities and it is bound to affect the town and its economy," he said.

"We have lost jobs with the biscuit factory and the soap factory and we ought to be looking at places opening, not more closing."

North West Leicestershire Council confirmed its Economic Shock support service would be used to minimise the impact.

Ed Leach from the union Usdaw, which represents some of the staff affected, said: "Clearly this is devastating news not only for the workers on the site but also the wider community.

"But we have good relations with the company and expect the consultation to be meaningful and worthwhile, hopefully in avoiding job losses but also putting in place contingencies to support those affected."

The Ashby site has previously been one of a number blockaded by farmers as part of a dispute over prices paid for milk.

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