County risks ‘brain drain’ as job losses and service cuts bite

County Coun Jennifer Mein
County Coun Jennifer Mein
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BUSINESS chiefs have warned of a ‘brain drain’ in Lancashire after a triple whammy of council cuts, BAE job losses and HMRC offices closing.

The county suffered a series of devastating blows on Thursday, with the announcement that 371 jobs were to go at BAE Systems closely followed by news that three of Preston’s six HMRC offices would be closing down.

It was also revealed that Lancashire County Council, the county’s largest employer, needs to find an an extra £66m in savings in the next financial year – inevitably leading to job losses and service cuts.

Babs Murphy, the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive called on BAE to do all it could to find work elsewhere in the company for those at risk.

She said: “BAE is a global player and the Typhoon is an exceptional aircraft but it faces, like many other industries, challenging global competition. It is vital that skills and capability are maintained by BAE Systems and indeed the local supply chain.”

Meanwhile Elaine Cotterell, Lancashire branch secretary of public services union Unison, revealed the branch will launch a major anti-cuts campaign in January, with posters on buses, leafleting and lobbying.

The union will meet local council workers next week to discuss the cuts which were revealed in the Post yesterday and are due to be officially announced by the County Council on Monday.

She said: “The extent of it will be a terrible shock for many staff and members. Obviously they know there are cuts. Next week and by the end of this month when the Cabinet makes decisions it will become a harsh reality at probably one of the worst times of the year.”

She added: “The public needs to really understand what it means to them.

“We’re going to see services stopped.”

Preston MP Mark Hendrick questioned whether the Northern Powerhouse vision was turning into a poorhouse reality and said: “I will be making sure the Government gets the message the people of Lancashire don’t want these cuts.”

More than 2,000 workers will be hit by changes at Preston’s HM Revenue and Customs’ offices, with three of the service’s Preston centres closing.

Up to 371 aerospace jobs will go at BAE’s Salmesbury and Warton sites after Typhoon sales declined.

Lancashire County Council leader Jennifer Mein said: “I‘m very sad to hear about the job losses at BAE Systems and HMRC, which unfortunately reflect the very difficult times we are living in.

“Along with the savage cuts to the county council’s budget these further demonstrate the need for a joined up economic strategy across both Lancashire and the Northern Powerhouse to successfully deliver growth and new jobs.”

She stressed that the council would talk about its proposed cuts, which have not yet been published, to staff first, because this was “only fair”.

Dr David Bailey, Chief Executive of the Northwest Aerospace Alliance, said: “The NWAA will provide whatever support we can to help BAE Systems win new orders and to try to help those individuals most affected into new jobs within the wider aerospace sector through support programmes.”