FORD bosses were given a dressing down by Hampshire MPs yesterday over the way the closure of the Southampton plant was handled.
Joe Greenwell, the chairman of Ford of Britain, was left in “no doubt” of the scale of their anger.
Conservative Caroline Nokes, Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne and Labour’s John Denham and Alan Whitehead urged the company to do more to help contractors who have lost their jobs as well as to hand over the Swaythling site to the community.
Mr Greenwell revealed around 50 new jobs could be created by the company with a new vehicle handling and refurbishment facility, probably based at Southampton docks.
Speaking after the “clear the air” talks, Mr Huhne said: “All of the MPs felt Ford had not handled this well. We made it very clear that this was not the way Ford had handled previous announcements. He took it on board and understood it.”
The Parliamentarians also raised the levels of taxpayer-funded support given to Ford in recent years, including an £80m European loan for its Turkish plant and a £9m handout to create jobs in Essex, announced on the day it decided to close down Southampton.
There have been calls for the Swaythling plant to be converted into a business-friendly enterprise zone.
Ownership is complicated as Ford does not own all of the freehold, and it is managed by Ford Land, a separate entity, although Mr Greenwell assured the MPs he was “not without influence” in any final decision.
Ms Nokes said: “They are acutely aware that they have some work to do to restore their reputation in the city. I think there is a genuine commitment to make sure it happens.”
On the MPs’ requests for action, Mr Denham added: “Other than giving us a commitment to looking at them and working on them, they were not in a position to go into specifics.”
The meeting came the day after Ford bosses in Europe found themselves under siege as anger over factories’ closures spilled over.
Workers stormed the company’s European headquarters in a violent protest against the firm slashing thousands of jobs – including more than 500 in Southampton – after taking billions in Government grants and loans.
More than 150 demonstrators went on the rampage yesterday, right, in the northern city of Cologne, blocking the entrance to the offices, torching tyres and throwing fireworks at police officers.
Then a group of 20 to 40 stormed the building and threw stones through windows.
Inside, a tense meeting was under way between Ford management and worker representatives including the UK union Unite, which represents workers at Swaythling.
Coaches arrived from the factory in Genk in Belgium, which, like Southampton, has had repeated assurances over its future.
Ford has announced plans to shut the assembly plant, which makes Mondeo and Galaxy cars, jeopardising some 5,000 jobs.