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Group Lotus shake-up to spark Norfolk job losses

PUBLISHED: 09:27 19 September 2014 | UPDATED: 18:43 19 September 2014

The work force leaving the Lotus factory at Hethel after the announcement of job losses. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The work force leaving the Lotus factory at Hethel after the announcement of job losses. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

copyright: Archant 2014

Sports car manufacturer Group Lotus has announced plans to make 325 staff redundant - more than a quarter of its entire workforce.

The production line at the Lotus factory at Hethel. Picture: Denise Bradley The production line at the Lotus factory at Hethel. Picture: Denise Bradley

The company employs a total of 1,032 people in the county, as part of a global workforce of 1,215, making it likely the local operations will be hardest hit by the announcement.

Sources close to the company said as many as 270 jobs maybe at risk in Norfolk; 25 at its operation in Worcester and 30 in USA and China. However, Lotus denied the figures and said no decision had yet been made on where the jobs would go.

It said the decision was “regrettable” but “essential”, in order to reduce costs and secure the business’s future.

The announcement comes less than a year after the company pledged to create 300 new jobs as part of an agreement with the government which saw it awarded £10.44m through the Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

Jean-Marc Gales CEO Lotus Jean-Marc Gales CEO Lotus

Yesterday, Jean-Marc Gales, chief executive of Group Lotus insisted the company was fully committed to Norfolk and had reassured business secretary Vince Cable that it was still on course to hit its employment targets.

“Just selling more cars is not sufficient,” he added. “We need to reduce our costs and that is why we have to put our workforce at risk of redundancy. 325 people is the maximum and we are trying to do what we can to redeploy people elsewhere in the company.”

He added: “For the time being we are going to continue building the Elise, Exige and Evora sports cars in Norfolk and there are no plans to out source anything.”

Workers have now entered a 45-day consultation with the company, but it is likely to be 90 days before it becomes clear how many salaried staff and agency workers will be affected. It comes despite a recent sales surge, with the Hethel-based firm selling 226 sports cars in July – a 65pc rise on the same period last year.

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, said he had spoken to Dr Cable and work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith about securing the future of some workers through the government’s Talent Retention Solutions scheme, which matches skilled employees facing redundancy to new roles in the manufacturing, engineering, and construction sectors

He added: “The government has an experienced rapid reaction team which helps those facing redundancy to get back into work quickly.

“I have asked for this team to be deployed immediately and the department for work and pensions assures me that this is already happening. All possible avenues will be explored to retain as many jobs as possible and, where needed, to help people with finding new jobs.”

Last night, leaders of South Norfolk Council, Norfolk County Council and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership spoke of their disappointment at the decision and also pledged to support staff in their quest to find new jobs.

Meanwhile, a government spokesperson at the department for business innovation and skills said it would speak to the EDP Top100 company about whether the restructure would have an impact on its RGF supported projects.

Group Lotus made a £167.8m net loss in 2013.

• Have you been affected by the decision? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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