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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

£10,000 lifeline thrown to Remploy factory in west Cumbria

Cleator Moor’s Remploy factory has been offered a £10,000 lifeline in a scheme to encourage workers take over centres earmarked for the axe.

Jamie Reed photo
Jamie Reed

Yesterday Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller said the £300,000 cash - just over £10,000 for each factory facing closure - would pay for lawyers and accountants to advise on rescue proposals.

She added: “We want to encourage as many employees to come forward as possible.

“This money will help support employees to put together credible bids to safeguard the jobs of disabled people.”

Copeland MP Jamie Reed, who has been campaigning to save the Cleator Moor factory, said he hoped the money was real and “not a smokescreen or a blatant public relations exercise.”

“If the Government has any interest in keeping the Cleator Moor site open it will meet with me to finally discuss the proposals of the workforce and help to make these a reality,” he said.

“Anything else is just a shame-faced attempt to cover up the minister’s profound ignorance.”

Mr Reed said repeated requests for meetings with Mrs Miller had been cancelled and he hadn’t had any response to a letter he sent regarding the future of the site. The GMB union said £300,000 was nowhere near enough, given that it was just a fraction of the millions the Government was taking away from Remploy.

A spokesman added: “To enable these factory sites to become viable, there is a need for a proper programme of funding and a reduction in the massive non-disabled management, which costs up to £20m per year. The Dpartment for work and pensions has described the threatened factories as “unlikely to achieve independent financial viability”.

However, Ms Miller has pledged that Remploy’s £320m budget will be protected and spent more effectively to “get thousands more disabled people in work”.

And she said the move had been recommended by a review - led by the chief executive of Disability Rights UK - which said expensive, segregated employment should be phased out.

The factories lose a total £63m a year and the average taxpayer subsidy is £25,000 for each worker - compared with just £2,900 to support a disabled person in a mainstream job.

Set up after World War Two, Remploy was the biggest employer of disabled people in the country - making everything from school furniture, footwear and wheelchairs to biological suits.

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