Norfolk County Council to “fight tooth and nail” to keep Britvic and Unilever in Norwich

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The campaign to keep Britvic and Unilever in Norwich has been backed by Norfolk County Council.

Council leaders and business bosses met Unilever representatives last week and said there were 'constructive talks' over the company's future.

And county councillors today said they would fight 'tooth and nail' to keep the companies which produce Colman's Mustard and Robinson's drinks in the city.

And the EDP's They Must Be Saved campaign, which has seen nearly 11,000 people sign a petition calling for the companies to stay put was praised.

READ MORE: Leaked document shows Britvic already offering redundancies

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But the Conservatives were accused by the opposition of 'watering down' the original Labour motion calling for the authority to 'use its powers and influence to keep those jobs and brands in Norwich', by removing those words.

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council said the council was working with Britvic and Unilever, not fighting them. He said officers were already working at ways to help.

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Labour leader Steve Morphew said the Conservative amendment had made the motion 'wishy washy' and stressed they were fighting for the city and workers, not against the business bosses.

But the motion was unanimously agreed.

Meanwhile, representatives from Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) met with representatives from Unilever last week to discuss the company's review of its Norwich operations.

Keith Kiddie, chairman of the county council's business and property committee, said: 'We had a very productive meeting with Unilever and it was very positive to be working closely with the City Council and LEP with the shared objective of keeping production in Norwich.

'And whilst keeping the site economically active is important to our local economy, it's important that we don't lose sight of what really matters – supporting the employees who may be affected. 'By working together I'm confident that we will be able to offer the support and guidance they need to remain in local employment.'

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'We had a good and positive meeting with Unilever, and our partners.

'We will do everything we can to protect the jobs of a committed workforce.

'We want to help a business that has been synonymous with this city for over 200 years continue to flourish here.'

Chris Starkie, managing director from New Anglia LEP, said: 'We had a very constructive meeting with Unilever.

'Together with our local authority partners were able to discuss our shared ambition to look for opportunities to keep the Colman's brand and the jobs its production supports within Norfolk.

'We will continue to work together to help the company, and the workers affected, in any way we can as Unilever's review continues.'

A Unilever spokesman said: 'We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet members of Norwich and Norfolk Councils, as well as the Local Enterprise Partnership, and to understand their questions and concerns following Britvic's announcement last week that they are proposing to withdraw from our shared site in Norwich.

'We outlined how we will be conducting the review into our operations at the site.

'We had a constructive discussion, with the councils and LEP representatives contributing views and ideas for consideration as part of our review.

'No decisions have been taken and we expect to announce the outcome of our review by the end of November.'

The councils are looking to set up a similar meeting with Britvic.

On Tuesday, October 3, Britvic announced plans to close its Norwich factory and switch production to other parts of the UK, hitting 242 jobs.

Later that morning Unilever, the maker of Colman's Mustard, announced it was considering its own future at the Bracondale site.

Saturday saw Norwich City fans wear shirts from when Colman's sponsored the Canaries - in a show of support for the workers at the two companies.

The motions were:

Conservative motion (agreed):

Council welcomes the campaign to protect and keep the iconic brands manufactured by Britvic and Unilever where they belong in Norwich and acknowledge the practical work being done by the EDP and council officers to help find a solution.

Labour motion (not agreed):

Council welcomes the campaign to protect the jobs and keep the iconic brands manufactured by Britvic and Unilever where they belong in Norwich. They are a crucial part of the city and county's manufacturing base and economy. Robinsons, one of Britvic's brands, has been based in Norwich for more than 90 years, while Unilever produces arguably Norwich and Norfolk's most iconic brand, Colman's Mustard, made in the city for more than 200 years.

Council commits to support the campaign and use its powers and influence to keep those jobs and brands in Norwich.

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