A NEW taskforce will now be
created to try and quickly find new
employment for the 500 workers
losing their jobs.

Spearheaded by the city council, it will involve trade unions, Job Centre Plus and local MPs who will be urged to come together to try and find a solution for some if not all of those affected.

It was a move that was put in place in April this year when another of the city’s key employers, British Gas, announced 500 workers would be axed as it closed its call centre in Southampton as part of a cost saving review.

Cllr Richard Williams, Labour leader of the council, said it was imperative that swift action was taken.

He said: “Now that we know the plant is to close next summer, we have to act quickly to support the 500 workers affected and alleviate the knock-on effect of such a blow to local industry.

“The city council will be forming a taskforce along with trade unions, Job Centre Plus and local MPs to help find new employment for the affected staff – similar to how we successfully helped many redundant British Gas staff earlier this year.”

He added: “I am calling for an emergency meeting of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to discuss the implications of this closure in the sub-region as a whole.

"We need to make sure this strategically well-placed site remains protected as a site for manufacturing and engineering.

"We will also be looking at regional growth fund opportunities to encourage new manufacturing business into the area.”

Yesterday’s confirmation is the latest blow to employment in Southampton in the past year.

Earlier this month financial services giant Skandia said it was due to axe 200 jobs, with the firm’s Southampton headquarters bearing the brunt.

At the start of October B&Q announced that 220 jobs would be going as part of a ‘restructuring’ at the Chandler’s Ford-based firm.

Council workers in the city have also been warned to brace themselves for potential job losses as part of further cutbacks to jobs and services as the city faces its worst cash crisis.