Impact of BAE job losses spread

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The Independent Online

The impact of the devastating job cuts at BAE Systems' Warton base quickly began to spread throughout the community.

As management outlined to hundreds of military aircraft division workers the process of impending job cuts, the likely consequences were being felt throughout the Lancashire village of Warton.

Sandwich seller Julie Greenaway was more directly affected than most as she arrived for her regular lunchtime pitch outside the main gates of the defence giant.

Her Sarni Bar caters for employees Monday to Friday through rain, wind or shine but she explained she was already beginning to feel the pinch from the last round of job cuts at the plant.

She said: "I am worried. Last time there were job losses it hit me bad. This is going to be just as bad I imagine.

"Regulars who come here every day just won't be coming back.

"I only have this one pitch. If I take 20 sandwiches home then that is a loss for me.

"My takings were down 10% last time."

Asked at what point she would consider whether the business was viable, she replied: "I don't know - I suppose I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it."

Steve Jones, who runs Harbour Properties, said today's announcement would also have a knock-on effect for his business too but he vowed to work "harder and smarter".

His company rents and manages property for more than 200 BAE workers - some of whom are often posted around the world.

"We see the business struggling for a while," he said. "We are going to have to work a little bit harder and smarter to stay afloat.

"We have a good name and a good reputation though. That good name will get us through this."

He said: "It is terribly disappointing for everyone across the road. In a way it's not unexpected. We do feel sorry for them."

Christine Waring, who ran Warton Post Office for 13 years until it was forced to close temporarily two weeks ago, was also sad at the news.

"People from BAE would queue outside the door at lunchtimes to do their business," she said.

"I think we sold more bags of sweets to the workers than children. They loved the sweets."

She said that staff were among the many well-wishers who showered gifts on her and her husband when they said they had to close the shop because they had not been able to find a buyer to fit in with their retirement plans.

"A post office has been in the village for more than 100 years. The nearest post office is now in Freckleton but that doesn't open at lunchtime so that is not much use for people at BAE.

"It had been on the market for a while but I think that any prospective buyers were put off because they couldn't get business loans in the current economic climate.

"I think these job losses are going to be a big blow because the village seems to be dying in many respects."

Workers began to pour out of the site at lunchtime but none were prepared to talk to gathered media.

It was not surprising that workers were staying tight-lipped with 90-day redundancy consultancies on the way.

Lunchtime business was brisk at Whites Sandwich & Coffee Bar and Whelans chip shop in the centre of the village.

Others preferred to contemplate their future over a pint of beer at the nearby Pickwick Tavern.

One employee tried to put on a brave face to a friend in the car park as he walked past with a smile and said: "This is my third time in three years."

Elizabeth Morey, headteacher of Bryning with Warton St Paul's CE Primary School, said: "This is going to have a very big impact on the area. People will have to move to where the work is.

"Our job is to make sure that everything is as normal for the pupils and the parents, and to give them as much support as possible."

The school has around 150 pupils, many the children of BAE employees, and was recently praised by Ofsted inspectors for being outstanding at meeting the needs of all learners.

Mrs Morey added: "It is not as if there are enough other industries in the area for them to transfer to.

"The feeling among the staff is that is a real shame for the village."

Conservative MP for Fylde Mark Menzies said: "Government is taking this seriously and I am asking for a meeting with the Prime Minister, and I know the Prime Minister will take it seriously because he knows how skilled these people are."

It is understood that staff were informed about the numbers involved at 10am but will learn which departments are affected at an afternoon briefing.