Stoke & Staffordshire

Npower Stoke-on-Trent base closure 'hurts battered city'

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Media captionThe energy firm plans to close its sites in Stoke-on-Trent site and Oldbury.

The closure of Npower's offices in Stoke-on-Trent is "taking livelihoods from a city that is being battered from every direction", a local MP has said.

The energy firm plans to cut about 550 jobs at the site on Victoria Road in Fenton next June.

Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South Rob Flello said he was "absolutely outraged", adding that "evil Santa has arrived in Fenton this year".

Npower said the company had to consider "what's right for the long-term".

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has said it is setting up an "emergency task force" to help affected workers.

Mr Flello said the plan was "a significant blow" to the area.

"Npower claiming this is about improving customer services and keeping prices down is just absolute nonsense.

"I'll be calling on the government to look immediately at this situation."

Image caption Chris Brass said there had been rumours since May that the jobs could go

Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, Joan Walley told the Commons the move was the "last straw in respect of totally irresponsible behaviour of energy companies."

In response, energy secretary Ed Davey said the government "would be working to help people affected" by the 1,460 job cuts across the country.

Chris Brass said his wife, who worked at the Trent House offices in Fenton, was "very upset".

"She's worked there most of her life, since she left school and most of her friends are there, but she'll have to move on, there's nothing we can do."

He added that the couple had "heard rumours that this might happen last May" which had allowed them prepare financially for the news.

"Christmas was paid for two or three months ago," he said.

'A sad day'

Market trader Tim Riches said it was another "nail in the coffin" for Fenton, which has seen the magistrates court, library and a bank shut in the past six months.

"Everything is closing down around us," he said.

"There's just no jobs available, except part-time or Christmas work, so again the city will have 600 people on the dole who will probably be stuck on it for six months to a year."

Stoke-on-Trent City Council said it would work with the city's MPs and unions to demand emergency meetings with the company to see if jobs could be saved.

Council leader Mohammed Pervez said the emergency task force would bring together experts from across the city to help those affected with emotional support, training and other job opportunities.

"It is terrible news for the Npower workers and their families, and the city as a whole," he said.

"It couldn't have come at a worse time in the run-up to Christmas.

"I am sure I speak for everyone in the city when I say that we are all thinking of them and that the city will come together in this time of adversity.

"This is a really close community and there is a real sense that what affects some affects all."

Deputy leader Paul Shotton told BBC Radio Stoke the council met with Npower bosses before the announcement and offered them a number of deals to keep the firm in the city.

'Cold comfort'

Npower said it would now be holding a 60 day consultation programme with workers at the site.

It said as well as redundancy payouts, employees would be given support to apply for other posts in the company or jobs at other firms.

Director Roger Hattam said it was a "sad day" because Npower had "had a presence in Stoke-on-Trent for about 20 years."

"We're operating in extremely tough times and we've had to look at what's right for the long term future of the company," he said.

Andrew Johnson from Unison, which represents some workers, said the consultation was "cold comfort".

"We welcome any assistance but hundreds of workers are losing their jobs because those jobs are being off-shored and we'll everything in our power to fight this," he said.

Dr Ian Jackson, senior lecturer in economics at Staffordshire University said the job cuts "added to the difficulties Stoke-on-Trent is facing".

"There are very few large private sector employers left in the city and these are the firms that the city really needs to retain.

"The good news for the workers, if there is any, is they have transferrable skills and they are equipped to get work elsewhere."

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