Loss of major companies in south Suffolk is ‘a worrying trend’, according to councillor

Philips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil Morley

Philips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

The loss of major companies in the south Suffolk area over the last 18 months is a “worrying trend”, according to a county councillor.

Philips Avent in Glemsford is closing Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Philips Avent in Glemsford is closing Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

Philips Avent announced plans on Thursday to move the majority of operations from its factory in Glemsford, near Sudbury, to a site in Drachten, Holland, with the remainder going to Indonesia.

Workers at the plant, which employs around 500 people, were told a consultation process will start next month ahead of a “full site shutdown” next year.

Despite some pointing to Brexit, Neil Mesher, the chief executive of Philips UK and Ireland, told this newspaper that the decision to close the factory was part of a wider global strategy and would have been made “regardless of Brexit”.

MORE: Philips Avent to close plant in Glemsford with hundreds of jobs to goNews of the closure follows the announcement in 2017 that another major employer in the area, Delphi Diesel Systems in Sudbury, which employs 500 people, was scaling down its operation ahead of a full closure next year.

Delphi Diesel Systems will leave its Newton Road site next year Picture: GREGG BROWN

Delphi Diesel Systems will leave its Newton Road site next year Picture: GREGG BROWN

Logistics business Prolog, which employs around 100 people in Sudbury, also went into administration in November following the withdrawal of financial support by a group company.

Jack Owen, county and town councillor for Sudbury and former mayor, said it was important the sites were retained for industrial use.

“In the last 18 months, we’ve lost three fairly sizeable employers, which is a very worrying trend,” he said.

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“We’ve got the Chilton Woods development and other housing developments in the area, and we are going to require more jobs for the people who move here.

Sulby House, Prolog's old contact centre. Picture: Archant

Sulby House, Prolog's old contact centre. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

“We’ve all got to work hard to ensure those sites are retained for industrial use.”

Suffolk County Council made the decision last year to shelve proposals for a bypass in Sudbury and Mr Owen believes infrastructure improvements in the town would attract more employers.

“This was one of the reasons I felt so strongly about the bypass,” he said. “The road system needs to be improved to encourage large employers to come so they can get their products out quickly.”

Last month, South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said a British company had put in a “significant bid” for the Delphi site in a deal which would retain the workforce.

MORE: British company makes ‘significant bid’ for major Suffolk industrial site, MP revealsMr Cartlidge, who chairs the South Suffolk Taskforce, which was launched in the wake of Delphi’s closure announcement, said the unnamed company plans to use the Delphi site as a hub for Chinese electrical car manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Babergh District Council has pledged its support to workers facing redundancy as a result of the Philips Avent closure.

The council says it will offer “tailored support” to ensure those impacted are fully informed about the support and opportunities available.

Babergh says it will also play a role in shaping the future of the site and looking at how it can provide employment once Philips Avent leave.

Simon Barrett, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for economy, said: “It is always difficult to lose a job, especially when it is through no fault of your own, as unfortunately appears to be the case with Philips Avent’s employees at Glemsford.

“While the management of Philips Avent have not felt the South Suffolk Taskforce was able to help them during conversations in the past, we will be there to help their employees now, not only in enabling them find the support they need but also in putting them in touch with other local businesses who could use their skills and experience.

“Philips Avent employees at Glemsford have a reputation for their efficient operations, innovation and skills, and it is these attributes which mean the area is still an attractive place for manufacturers to invest in and we will be looking at the future of the Glemsford site and how it can continue to provide employment in the area once Philips Avent leave.”