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£29m bid to help workers at Hall's find jobs

A MULTIMILLION-POUND plan to help Hall’s of Broxburn workers find new jobs has been launched as 600 of them prepare to leave the factory for the last time tomorrow.

The Scottish Government wants to create 3000 new jobs in the long-term with a £29 million boost to West Lothian.

The final closure of the plant in February will put 1100 permanent staff and 600 agency staff out of work.

A total of £16.6m has already been allocated through Scottish Enterprise, while new funding of up to £12m will go to training and company support.

It will see an average of £2.4m invested in each of the next five years, with the effectiveness of the investment assessed after the first three years.

The Scottish Government and West Lothian Council Partnership Action for Continuing Employment initiative aims to reduce the time people spend out of work, help them find new jobs and support the hardest-hit communities in Broxburn, Uphall and Winchburgh.

The former workforce will be supported by funding of £5.53m, including £4.7m to meet training and other needs, while £23.6m will support economic recovery and growth, including £4m for growing companies identified by Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise.

It is estimated the recovery plan will create the new jobs over a period of about five years.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “The Scottish Government has been committed to doing everything it can to minimise the effects of Vion’s decision to close the plant at Broxburn.

“I have personally established and chaired the taskforce over the last six months to ensure that no stone was left unturned in the exploration of options for the site.

“Our focus has always been to work with West Lothian Council to explore all options for the company, provide support for the workforce and mitigate any possible wider impacts, but we have had to accept the decision of the company to close the site.”

Vion Food Group bought the Broxburn plant in August 2008 from Grampian Country Food Group, which had been in financial difficulties for several years.

News of the plant’s possible closure first came in July, when Vion announced it was recording “unsustainable losses” in spite of “major restructuring exercises”.

Its UK chairman Peter Barr said the firm – which was handling 8000 pigs each week – was losing £79,000 per day at the site, due to “significant over-capacity in the UK meat industry”.

As work continues to secure employment prospects in West Lothian, the area was given a jobs boost last week when US-based electronics firm Plexus announced a £9m expansion of its Scottish operations, which will establish a new European Centre for Excellence in design, prototyping and manufacturing in Bathgate.

As workers prepare for their last shift at Hall’s, West Lothian Council leader John McGinty said: “The majority of the people involved in the job losses are from West Lothian, and this is expected to have a severe economic impact on West Lothian.

“To alleviate this the recovery plan aims to create around 3000 jobs over the next three to five years.”

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