A GOVERNMENT “city deal” of investment and decision-making powers could pave the way for a new future at Newcastle’s BAE factory site.
As workers there adjust to the news 330 jobs will go in a closure of the Scotswood Road factory, council officials say they are already planning for a way to keep the site and its skilled workforce in use.
Newcastle Council expects to hear this month if the government will sign off on a multi-million package of city regeneration cash.
While those plans already allocate cash for different projects, the move would strengthen Newcastle’s hand when it comes to enticing in new firms.
Council leader Nick Forbes said: “We are not just going to wait for a for sale sign to appear, we will be looking now to see what can be done for this site.”
There is also the hope that officials at UKTI, the Government office tasked with selling the UK oversees, could be made to pitch the site to investors globally.
The site is thought to be ideal for several major firms, with anything from wind turbine manufacturing to rail carriage work possibly given its connections via roads and river.
No firms plans are yet in place, and any new investment would come a while after the final December 2013 closure.
But city officials insist they are already contacting central Government to stress that the site, and the skilled workers at BAE, need to be viewed as a national economic asset.
The need for action came after BAE announced it would be closing down operations at the historic site as soon as current work finishes.
A statement from BAE said: “The Newcastle proposal follows a business review which concluded that there was no prospect of new UK armoured vehicle manufacturing work once production of the Terrier engineering vehicle at the Tyneside factory ceases at the end of next year.
“A small team would potentially be retained in the North East to provide specialist support to armoured vehicle customers.”
Prospect, the union for specialists, engineers and managers at BAE, described the announcement as cruel and cynical example of news management.
Negotiator Tony Hammond said: “This announcement has revealed BAE’s contempt for its staff by trying to bury bad news on the eve of a national Jubilee celebration. However the real truth cannot be hidden – that the defence industry is in crisis.”
Mr Hammond added: “The cuts are yet another example of how Ministry of Defence budget cutbacks and the failure to set out a credible defence science and industry policy are crippling the principal UK defence contractors.
“Now isn’t the time to throw highly skilled staff and jobs to the wall. The effects will be badly felt in both the local communities and the UK’s already battered defence infrastructure.”