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Ipswich: Shock as Legal & General decides to close office with loss of 140 jobs

PUBLISHED: 18:19 02 September 2014 | UPDATED: 10:05 03 September 2014

Legal and General in Ipswich are about to axe hundreds of jobs.

Legal and General in Ipswich are about to axe hundreds of jobs.

Sarah Lucy brown

More than 140 jobs are set to be lost in Ipswich after a shock announcement yesterday that insurance giant Legal & General (L&G) is set to close its office in the town.

Legal and General in Ipswich are about to axe hundreds of jobs. Legal and General in Ipswich are about to axe hundreds of jobs.

Staff from the Friars Bridge Road office were said to be shocked, tearful and angry after they were called to a morning briefing at the town’s Novotel hotel to be told the news.

The company said the office closure was part of a plan to combine its customer services operations at one site in Birmingham.

It added that while 140 jobs would go at Ipswich, where the company has had offices since 1990, 120 jobs would be created at its offices in Birmingham and Hove.

Union Unite described the announcement as “a serious blow to the Suffolk economy” and said it was not ruling out industrial action.

Unite regional officer Ian Methven said: “This is devastating news for the staff and their families, and also a serious blow to the wider Suffolk economy.

“This follows substantial job losses across the country by the insurance giant in the last year and today’s announcement is a kick in the teeth to the loyal and experienced workforce in Ipswich.

“We will be giving our members maximum support in the weeks and month ahead.”

The union called on senior management to reverse its decision.

“Unite firmly believes that Legal & General’s current strategy of reducing jobs to cut costs is damaging to both the business and to its members (policy holders). It is a counter-productive policy,” it said.

“The Ipswich work, which is customer facing, will move to the Hove and Birmingham offices, but the workforce at these two sites won’t be increased to reflect the number of job losses.

“These jobs losses will affect customers across the whole of the country and not just in East Anglia.”

An L&G spokesperson said: “We are closing the Ipswich office down and that will be phased between now and May next year. There are about 140 jobs in Ipswich and those will be lost to the Ipswich area. We are moving approximately 120 of those to two other sites, the Birmingham office and the Hove site. We will obviously be offering relocation packages if staff want to move.”

He added: “We have also got Suffolk Life, A SIP pensions provider, which is owned by Legal & General, in Ipswich and if there are opportunities for people to transfer, we’ll look to transfer them from the Ipswich office.”

The rationale behind the closure was “very, very simple”, he said.

“We want to centralise our customer services operations into one office. Our general insurance will be dealt with in one office in one department in Birmingham.”

It was not a cost-cutting exercise, he stressed, as the company had only recently announced record half-year profits.

“It’s not a cost-cutting exercise. We just believe the business will be more efficient and will work better for our customers.”

An Ipswich staff member, who asked not to be named, condemned the move and said she believed the company was making a big mistake.

“Everybody is really angry because it was a total shock, because they have still been recruiting in the last few weeks and there were plans to recruit in October. Unite the union is fighting it. There might be some strike action. We are going to fight the closure, because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

The knowledge base at the Ipswich office, which had been in the town in different locations for many years, could not be equalled at the other offices, she said.

“Legal & General customers are going to be affected. We don’t just service Ipswich, we service the whole of the UK. We think it’s going to be quite detrimental to the brand. This decision has come from a spreadsheet, from someone with no idea what’s going on,” she said.

“The amount of long-serving staff, the loyalty at the Ipswich office, can’t be compared to Birmingham,” she added.

“They are offering us Birmingham and Hove. Who realistically would want to move to Birmingham or could afford to move to Hove?”

Staff were “really angry”, she added, and some had been in tears after the briefing.

“I want them to know what a big mistake they are making,” she said.

“They are doing very well. They made very good profits this year. There’s no need for what they are doing. Of course, I’m going to be bitter because I’m an employee losing my job, but I really think they are making a huge mistake. They have picked the wrong site to close. We are really loyal to that brand. A lot of people who work there, we love our jobs and it shows, and the way we are being treated we really do believe we are being slapped in the face by a company we have been loyal to.”

The briefing, which staff were summoned to by email yesterday, was a complete shock, she said.

“There are people there who have just got houses, got married, had babies. It’s devastating for people.”

The L&G spokesperson explained that in 2013, L&G restructured its insurance business, combining UK Retail Protection, General Insurance, Legal & General Netherlands and Legal & General Network.

“This was done to help us extend the range of products and services we provide to our expanding customer base,” he said.

“This reorganisation has led to us making some further changes to our various operations and activities in our customer service areas, which means that all household claims will move from our Ipswich office, to create one single claims operation based in Birmingham and all Ipswich customer service operations will move to our Hove customer service location, creating a dual household customer service operation with Birmingham.

“We are confident these changes will reduce complexity, help us to improve our overall efficiency and enhance customer experience.

“These operational changes and because the release for the Ipswich office ends in 2015, means the office will be closing after the changes have taken effect. To ensure a smooth transition the outlined changes will take place in a phased approach between now and end of May 2015.”

Legal & General, which dates back 178 years and started in London, employs about 9,000 staff and has about 10million customers. In the first half of 2014, it made £636million in operating profits. Suffolk Life in Ipswich employs 300 staff.

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  • 140 jobs lost is a big hit for Ipswich but in the large scheme of it all... for such an industry its a relatively small number of people to employ in one location. I am rather surprised why they bothered locating an office here in the first place or why it took so long for them to make this decision. The big kick in the teeth is the record profits.

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    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Take the relocation package: Hove is a nice town and a far better place to live. Plus their trains actually run.

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    Sentinel Red

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • The world has changed. People still walk around blind to the fact that they are sheep waiting to be skinned and slaughtered by their employercouncilgovernment"community". Loyalty does not exist anymore. This is not surprising at all. The sheep get the minimum required.

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    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Feel sorry for the staff having worked there for 9 years and only left 2yrs ago. Best bunch of people i worked with. Unfortunately greed, bad management and constant staff changes never helped. Our MD at one point talked about loyalty to the company then resigned not long after. Says it all. Shame as could have been such a good place to work. Always being told we were the best office then this happens. The grass is greener people, trust me.

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    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • I worked here 9 years ago and can say without hesitation it was the worst job working environment I have ever had. There is a large insurer in this twon that does care about it's staff and wear this as a badge of honour. If these people manage to get out and get jobs with better employers then this could be seen as a lucky escape.

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    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Some company's pull these stunts ,get rid of the people that have been there the longest making the most money . Move their business to another location ,hire more people at beginner wages . Have seen that happen many times !

    Report this comment

    Violet Adlam

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • This is all part of Osborne's 'Economic Recovery' is it ?, more like all talk and no action !, rool on May 2015 !

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • The staff member summed it up when she said it was a decision by someone sitting with a spreadsheet. Big business doesn't care about its employees, they're just a cost on a balance sheet. It was reported elsewhere about L&G that "Pre-tax profits in the first-half of the year rose 9pc to £507m, boosted by a 20pc increase in annuity assets to £38.5bn, a 9pc rise in insurance premiums to £1.5bn and a 17pc jump in savings assets to £117.8bn." So they hardly need even more money but they are prepared to cut jobs for exactly that reason. I was once taught that business makes profits for the general good of society. It's been a long time since the people who owned and ran businesses cared for anything except their own inflated salaries and bonuses.

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    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • also between ipswich and birmingham there are already not enough to answer the calls with customers waiting ages

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • complexity what do they mean. we in ipswich certainly did not make things complicated?

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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