Wales politics

Ford Bridgend: Welsh firms interested in site, says Ken Skates

Ford Bridgend Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ford will shut the engine plant in 2020 with the loss of 1,700 jobs

Officials dealing with plans to close the Ford plant in Bridgend have been approached by Wales-based firms interested in the site, Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates has said.

Mr Skates called on Ford to help identify whether the site will be appropriate for the companies.

The engine factory will shut in 2020 with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Mr Skates urged Ford to make a "very substantial legacy investment" in the community, following the closure.

Responding to an urgent question on Ford in the Senedd, he said the company needed "to recognise the loyalty and commitment of the people with a very substantial legacy investment".

"In order to encourage them to consider a substantial legacy investment I and the secretaries of state in UK government will jointly be writing to ford urging them to invest a considerable sum of money in the community and those who will be affected."

One firm, Ineos, is thought to be considering using the site.

But a car expert has warned that the firm's proposal to build a 4x4 in Bridgend would not secure all of the site's jobs.

Last Friday Mark Drakeford said workers felt angry and betrayed by Ford.

"Already there's been speculation about one particular investor," Mr Skates told a press conference on Tuesday morning.

"We are working on a number of leads. We have had approaches in a number of days from global Welsh based businesses that are interested in the Ford site.

"It will be going to be incredibly important for Ford to work with us in identifying whether the site will be appropriate for those who have come forward with an expression of interest."

He did not elaborate on who the firms were, or what industry they are involved in.

Image caption Ken Skates has strongly criticised Ford's treatment of its Bridgend workforce

Meanwhile Mr Skates alleged the way Ford was handling the redundancy meant workers were restricted in speaking to journalists and officials about how they feel.

However, Ford said employees "are free to talk to whomever they want to".

Mr Skates said: "I think it's unfair the way that Ford have gone about immediately implementing the conditionality on the offer that they've made to the workforce, which essentially risks dividing the workers.

"In saying that 45% of their redundancy is conditional on them staying with the company, and essentially behaving, it means that we won't and you [the media] won't, I imagine, get the true full force of the response from workers which I'm sure the unions are feeling right now and the anger, which is palpable within the plant.

"I don't think that's fair."

The Ford spokesman said "continuity payments are being offered to maintain normal production at the plant as a whole" and will be "discussed as part of the consultation".

Mr Skates, an AM for Clwyd South, recalled the loss of thousands of jobs at Shotton steelworks.

"We will not allow Bridgend to go through what Deeside went through in the 1980s and 1990s," he said.

He said that for the two years following the announcement from British Steel "there was quite a bit of money in circulation in the community. There were a lot of new cars being driven, certain shops, jewellery shops for example did pretty well.

"But then when the redundancy money ran out, that's when the problems began to emerge."

"You can't just have a short-term intervention, the efforts that are going to be required for Bridgend and other communities are efforts that will have to last for several years."

A taskforce is being set up to find a future for the site, but Mr Skates said Welsh Government efforts would be "significantly bigger, more intense and broader" than similar efforts in the past.

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