THE chairman of Ford of Britian last night moved to reassure Southampton staff they would be looked after with “extremely generous” pay-offs.

Joe Greenwell said the closure of the Southampton plant was “very regrettable”

but “unavoidable” against the state of the European economy and a longer term decline in van sales. Ford yesterday admitted it is set to lose £930m ($1.5bn) this year in the region.

Mr Greenwell stressed there would no compulsory redundancies in Southampton and staff would be offered “extremely generous” voluntary redundancy packages which he said were “industry leading”.

Up to 300 staff affected in Southampton and Dagenham, which is to close its tooling and stamping operation, could be deployed to other sites, he said.

He said teams will work with individual employees to offer counselling, advice on redundancy terms and potential “reassignment and relocation elsewhere on Ford facilities.”

“We are going to do our absolute upmost to manage this transition with sensitivity and dignity for those involved,” he said.

Commenting on the decision to fully switch Transit production to Ford’s Turkish plant next year Mr Greenwell said: “The reality is against the background of demand. We can’t sustain two Transit plants in the Ford portfolio.”

He added: “These are tough choices. We looked at all sorts of ways to try to reduce costs but ultimately we’ve had to make a more radical decision.”