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Update: 68 jobs lost as Caterham closes business in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 14:37 27 November 2014 | UPDATED: 19:48 27 November 2014

A Caterham 7 is put through its paces. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

A Caterham 7 is put through its paces. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

Bosses at Caterham have shut down its business in Norfolk and made the entire workforce redundant in a blow to the region’s automotive industry.

Caterham Technology and Innovation Centre at Hingham which is to close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYCaterham Technology and Innovation Centre at Hingham which is to close. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Chief executive Graham MacDonald took the decision to close the technology and innovation centre today after it continued to mount “heavy losses”.

The fate of the Hingham-based firm was shared with workers on Wednesday night, with 68 staff set to lose their jobs.

Crunch talks had been ongoing between Mr MacDonald and major shareholders Tony Fernandes and Dartuk Kamarudon Meranun to salvage the business – but no solution could be found.

Today, the company said it would “honour its commitments” by paying staff to the end of their contracts and upholding agreements with creditors.

Plans are now underway to sell the Caterham Technology and Innovation (CTI) factory – although the company may rent out the facility in the short term.

“It is with deep regret that I have closed CTI,” Mr MacDonald said. “As I know the 68 personnel there worked tirelessly to try to build the business and win contracts across the globe. I am sensitive to the fact that we have had to let go of the staff at CTI and I will ensure that they are looked after in the proper manner.”

The collapse of its engineering arm – set up by Mr Fernandes in 2011 – can be traced back to June when a deal to build a new mid-engined Alpine sports car with Renault broke down.

The demise of the joint venture caused plans to build a new factory at Hingham - which would have created 130 new jobs – to be shelved.

It follows news in September that Hethel-based Group Lotus was making 325 staff redundant from its global workforce – with heavy job losses expected in Norfolk.

Peter Eldridge, chairman of Hingham Town Council, said the closure would have a wider impact on the local economy because the workers will no longer be using the shops and services in Hingham.

“With the situation over at Lotus as well, it is a problem,” he said. “It might be that some of the skills the workers have are transferable into the offshore industry because they want engineers and skilled technicians. Hopefully the Department of Work and Pensions through the Job Centre will be able to help a situation like this.

“But some people have been in the automotive industry since university and they are highly-skilled engineers. Hopefully they can pick up something, even if it means commuting to the Midlands to get work there.”

Simon Coward, director of Hethel Engineering Centre, said he was planning to hold a snap event at 11am tomorrow to try and get the staff new work.

“We are running another open day and we have at least one company, Multimatic, looking for staff. They are looking for automotive engineers.

“We are going to run more open days and bring in more local employers to match up with people who have lost their jobs. Hethel is there for the good times and the bad times – our job is to help them find jobs.”

He added: “We want to retain the engineering skills talent in Norfolk particular in the automotive sector.”

Last year, Norfolk MPs George Freeman and Richard Bacon had urged business secretary Vince Cable to free up £5m to help Caterham move its factory in Dartford to Hingham – or risk of losing the operation to France.

But while Caterham admitted it was seeking funding from the government, it quashed claims that it was planning to move its operation overseas and said it was committed to its UK-based workforce.

Speaking today, Mr Freeman, MP for mid Norfolk, said: “Enormous sadness at this loss, my thoughts are with the staff and their family”

Caterham said that no jobs at its operation in Dartford were under threat.

• Have you been affected by the closure of the Caterham Technology and Innovation? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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