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Ford Bridgend: Ministers ‘haven’t given up’ on saving plant

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Mark Drakeford addressing the committee in Wrexham

Welsh ministers “haven’t given up” on efforts to persuade Ford to stay in Bridgend, the first minister has said.

Mark Drakeford was quizzed by AMs as the firm consults on plans to close its car engine plant in the town next year, with the loss of 1.700 jobs.

It was important “to hear what local people are saying about the possibility to retain work in Bridgend”, he said

A senior official said negotiations were also taking place with 17 firms interested in the site and workforce.

Mr Drakeford told a committee which scrutinises his work as first minister: “It is important, I think, not to accept that Ford is going to leave Bridgend, and not to accept that Ford is going to move everything that they’re doing out of Bridgend.

“So we’re still telling the company that this is a period of consultation that we’re undertaking at present and it’s important for that to be open and therefore to hear what local people are saying about the possibility to retain work in Bridgend.

“So we haven’t given up on that at all but of course we know that that’s what Ford has said and that’s the intention [to close the plant] so it is important to prepare just in case that does happen.”

He has been asked by South Wales West Plaid Cymru AM Dai Lloyd whether a task force set up in the wake of Ford’s closure announcement “accepts the fact without question that Ford isn’t going to play any role in the future of this site in Bridgend and that any new job will come from a new employer”.

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Ford has blamed changing customer demand and cost for the decision

Mr Lloyd said Ford had offered £1m “as part of a community fund to try to mitigate the impact of the decision locally, which has been described by come local union officials in Bridgend as a ‘drop in the ocean'”.

Mr Drakeford responded: “£1m after 40 years of being there simply does not measure up to the impact or the history or indeed the reputational risk to the company itself, and I made all those points to them.”

Dickie Davies, a senior Welsh Government official who represents Mr Drakeford and Economy Minister Ken Skates in negotiations with Ford, said: “I have not heard any limit to any form of financial support that the company [has offered] at all.”

Mr Davies said the Welsh Government and UK government were “currently negotiating with 17 companies who have serious interest in the facility [and] serious interest in the workforce”, should the closure go ahead.

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