Norwich Remploy factory is saved as government wields axe

A Norwich factory employing mostly disabled workers has been spared the axe following a nationwide review which will see more than half of the factories closed and the loss of 1,700 jobs.

The government announced today that Remploy is proposing to close 36 of its 54 factories, with potential compulsory redundancies of 1,752 people, including 1,518 disabled employees.

But the Norwich factory in Raynham Street, which employs 39 people, including 26 who are disabled, is to carry on trading after the review concluded that the packaging busi-ness could potentially be 'commer-cially viable without government subsidy'.

However. questions about the long-term future of the factory are likely to remain after Remploy said it will work with the Department for Work and Pensions to explore which of the remaining factory-based businesses and CCTV contracts could exit from government ownership.

Norfolk Euro MP Richard Howitt, who had helped campaign to save the factory, welcomed the decision, but said that businesses must now rally round to help make sure it would remain viable.

'I welcome the fact that the Norwich factory will stay open,' Mr Howitt said. 'I was there a month ago and I know from my many visits there that is a viable business providing a range of work options to disabled people. It would have been a huge loss to the community had it closed. If people do not buy products from Remploy they should consider doing so. I want this decision to help build the business for the longer term and not be a stay of execution.'

The minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, said the Remploy board was proposing to close the sites by the end of the year because they were unlikely to achieve independent financial viability. The �320m budget for disability employment has been protected, and she said the money would be spent more effectively.

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But Phil Davies, national officer of the GMB, said: 'This is one of the worst decisions that this discredited coalition government has taken.'

Last year, the independent Sayce review recommended Remploy should concentrate on helping people find employment in the open labour market.