Former Network Rail chairman Professor Richard Parry-Jones CBE is heading up the Ford Bridgend Taskforce, which is assisting the workforce of Ford’s engine factory and the local community following the company’s decision to close its Bridgend plant later this year.
The Taskforce, which was established in June 2019, is co-sponsored by Secretary of State for Wales Simon Jones and Welsh Government Economy Minister Ken Skates. It brings together representatives from Ford, Welsh Government, Office of the Secretary of State for Wales, BEIS, DIT, Trade Unions, Bridgend council and others.
Ford employed 1,700 workers at the Bridgend site, which began production in 1980. It currently produces the 1.6-litre inline-four EcoBoost engine. It also contains an independently run unit that manufactures engines for Jaguar Land Rover, but this arrangement will end in September 2020 when production moves to JLR’s own factory in Wolverhampton.
The 1.6-litre engine no longer fits into Ford’s range. Current demand for small cars is for small engines and for hybrid powertrains, so the three-cylinder engines that Ford produces in Germany and Romania are more in vogue. With its extended supply chain – engine blocks from Ireland, many other components from the European mainland – costs are also high.
Although Ford denied it, there were certainly concerns about Brexit, and what that could mean both for component supplies and the delivery of engines to European assembly plants ‘just in time’.
The result of all this is a plant that closes in September 2020 and a taskforce that is working to assist those affected.
After its latest meeting, the taskforce announced that:
- Ineos Automotive, which is due to start production of its new Grenadier 4×4 vehicle, has confirmed it will be manufactured in a new 300,000 sq ft assembly facility on the Welsh Government-owned greenfield Brocastle site adjacent to Ford, initially creating 200 jobs with the chance of 300 more to follow;
- 537 Ford workers have already attended training workshops to help prepare them for future employment opportunities, with the company also providing workers with significant financial support to access training from a wide range of external providers;
- 350 Ford workers have already secured new employment or have chosen not to continue in the workforce;
- 90 workers are interested in starting self-employment.
The taskforce has also established support mechanisms for companies within the supply chain, highlighting with other sectors where their purchases could be marketed, especially in high value manufacturing sectors such as aerospace, defence and rail – the new CAF factory in Newport lies 32 miles to the east. There is also the Aston Martin factory at St Athan, 10 miles southeast.
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “The taskforce is already playing a crucial role in deciding how we can best support the region and the workers affected during this challenging time.
“It has made positive progress since its establishment and we now have concrete plans in place to ensure south Wales’ reputation as a place of industrial excellence in manufacturing and technology is maintained and expanded.
“The recent INEOS Automotive investment adjacent to the site, along with Aston Martin’s investment in their Vale of Glamorgan factory, is a tangible demonstration of how the UK and Welsh governments are working together to attract investment and generate employment within the automotive sector.”
Welsh Government Economy Minister Ken Skates added: “The Taskforce has worked hard since it was established to deliver real results for the Ford workers, their families and the Bridgend community.
“Whilst I obviously remain very disappointed at Ford’s decision to close the plant, I recognise the support they have given to their workforce and commitment shown to the Taskforce. I am also encouraged by the work to attract investment to Bridgend and the wider region.
“Attracting a magnet company like INEOS Automotive to Bridgend, for instance, is a real vote of confidence in the region and its skilled workforce.”
Ford has already stated that it will provide a Community Fund and the taskforce is looking to secure further support. The Welsh Government will be investing £50,000, which will be match funded by £50,000 from the Cardiff Capital Region, for Bridgend County Borough Council to carry out feasibility studies on three projects that could help secure a prosperous future for local area.