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Disastrous BAe job losses threaten the wider northern economy

Knock-on effects combine with a steady attrition of jobs to heighten concern in Preston, Hull and surrounding areas

Today’s BAe announcements are an extremely damaging blow to the northern economy and reaction around the affected plants is intense. The potential loss of engineering skills attracts particular comment, along with the sense that the three regions have suffered one hit after another in the last few months.

The Lancashire Evening Post sums up that second point in its main report on the job losses:

The announcement means 6,474 jobs have gone from the county’s major employers including more than 1,300 at Lancashire County Council, 800 at Lancashire Police and 300 at Leyland-based entertainment firm MBL Group.

And it underlines the knock-on effects by visiting not just secondary suppliers of components or machine tools, but everyday small businesses:

Cath Hickson, a member of staff at Whelan’s fish and chip shop in Lytham Road, Warton, said they had built up a strong customer base since opening in May. She said: “We do get a lot of business from BAE and, obviously, yes, it’s going to affect us.”

The North West Aerospace Alliance is also watching anxiously, after carrying what seemed to be better news about BAe at Samlesbury as recently as 5 September. One of the plant’s senior managers, Chris Allam, was over in Florida for the unveiling of the US Air Force’s new F35 ‘plane. BAe told the NWAA:

With more than 1000 F35 employees at our Samlesbury site, it’s a key programme for us. We continue to see important milestones being reached on the programme. Recently those include the machining facility at Samlesbury officially opening last year and the 50th aircraft set being produced at Samlesbury very recently. Manufacturing the rear aft and empennage sections of the plane is a big part of what we do, but we also provide other key areas of expertise to the programme such as Crew Escape systems and leading the UK integration with the carrier.

Allam added himself:

This is a really exciting time for the F-35 programme as we move ever closer to seeing the aircraft in real operations. Seeing the aircraft handed over to the US Air force for training purposes is the start of a new chapter in the F-35 story and brings with it a completely different feel to the programme. Soon we will see F-35 being flown by air forces around the globe. That’s an exciting prospect for the hundreds of F-35 employees we have based at Samlesbury delivering parts and expertise to the programme. Being part of the largest defence programme on the world will begin to feel even more real.”

Over at Brough the Hull Daily Mail warns of a similar series of body blows to the sub-regional economy. It’s also interesting on the role of the area’s best-known MP:

Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis revealed the redundancies announced last year were only completed last month.
During those negotiations, plans were said to have been put in place to minimise future job losses.

“Neither Alan Johnson nor I will be too pleased if the rumoured number of job losses turns out to be true,” said Mr Davis. “We were making plans to help safeguard the future of the site only last year and yet this has happened barely 12 months later.

“What they said at the time was that the problem at Brough was its huge dependency on the Hawk, which often led to either a famine or feast of orders. The idea was to reduce the plant’s dependency on the Hawk and to split the work between the F35, the brand new fighter jet, Typhoon and originally Nimrod. If these rumours are true then that strategy does not appear to have worked, so one of the first questions I will be asking BAE is why it has failed.”

In the excellent manner of today’s interactive journalism, he is promptly challenged, and in detail rather than just huffing and puffing, by a the first poster on the article’s thread, one newsghost:

David Davis said in your report: “The idea was to reduce the plant’s dependency on the Hawk and to split the work between the F35, the brand new fighter jet, Typhoon and originally Nimrod. If these rumours are true then that strategy does not appear to have worked, so one of the first questions I will be asking BAE is why it has failed.”Why BAE has failed??Can BAE be blamed for having to build bits of the Typhoon in a euro-pudding disaster that the govt Public Accounts Committee pilloried in April as costing “£3.5 billion more than it first expected to buy a third fewer aircraft”? PAC blamed the MoD for that one, not BAE.The F35 Lightening project is a US-led project, run by Lockheed Martin – BAE is only building bits of that (and that is done from its Samelsbury site). Again, short of stealing work from Samelsbury, what could BAE Brough have done without govt lobbying for more of the US project to come to the UK?And the Nimrod? It was Mr Davies’ colleagues that took the decision last year, in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, to scrap the Nimrod. Successive govts had already reduced the original contract from 21 to 12 then nine planes. Last October, the review decided to scrap the nine, almost finished, planes (they were due to be delivered 2012) to save the public purse £2bn a year over 10 years. As a result, the MoD has paid around £200m to private contractors to dismantle and scrap £4bn worth of Nimrods. What does Mr Davis suggest is BAE’s “failure” in the Nimrods?I hope Mr Davis gets straight answers from BAE to his questions, but I doubt they’ll give him quotes he can use.”

More later, other duties permitting. Any input from the affected areas, or anywhere else, very welcome as ever. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds