Sudbury: Fears Prolog’s Suffolk jobs may be ‘casual’

FEARS have emerged that a �50m project given the go-ahead last week might not deliver the number of permanent jobs promised by the developers.

New Sudbury mayor Jack Owen said councillors had backed the development application by Prolog for two massive warehouses and offices in Church Field Road because they felt the number of jobs outweighed potential harm to heritage assets.

But he said the authority now wanted “assurances” about the quality of the employment it would generate.

One of the arguments against the project was that the size of buildings was “out of proportion” to the number of jobs they would create.

However, Prolog chief executive Robert Audley said many of those objecting were not familiar with how the company operated, adding that the company was committed to providing the 500 projected jobs set out in “one of the most detailed reports ever to go before Babergh District Council”.

Mr Owen said: “While there is support generally for the development, there is quite a lot of disquiet.

“When they (Prolog) spoke about 500 jobs, I want to know if they meant 500 quality jobs. I appreciate there will be some casual jobs, but I am hoping the community will benefit from, and be able to have confidence, that there will be some sustainable, long-term employment created here.”

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Prolog was founded in Sudbury more than 25 years ago and Mr Audley said doubters should look at the example of the company’s current site in Milner Road, which employs 400 people in a variety of roles.

He said Prolog could not operate with a “robotic closed warehouse with racked palettes and a crane”, adding: “What we are talking about is a dynamic warehousing system that is a much more intensive, production-orientated use of a warehouse and uses totally different skills.

“In the type of environment we are in, it is definitely going to be 500 jobs. We wouldn’t pay rates on buildings of this size if we were not going to be able to employ the number of people to make it worthwhile.”

He added: “We have people at our premises in Sudbury who have worked there for 20 years so you can definitely say that their jobs have been long-term.”

Sudbury councillor Simon Barrett said he believed it was unfair to say the development would not create “quality” jobs suited to the local area.

“We are not a Cambridge science park and we have to be realistic,” he added.

“Skilled people are not the ones who are looking for jobs in this area – unskilled people are often the ones who do not have transport and need to work locally.

“If you are one of the 838 people on Jobseeker’s allowance within a 10-mile radius of Sudbury looking for a job, you would be happy to be able to get into a company like Prolog, which has pledged to give training and has plenty of opportunities for people to progress.

“I think it has proved it is a company that is happy to stay here in Sudbury and invest in the area because the workforce is suitable.”

The new site is expected to provide jobs in everything from handling telephone and internet orders, to warehouse supervision, computer programming and financial management.

Prolog is the UK’s biggest privately owned outsourced services provider. Its clients include the NHS and British Airways.