Task forces get under way in wake of BAE’s shipbuilding plans

UNCERTAIN FUTURE The BAE Systems shipyard in Portsmouth
UNCERTAIN FUTURE The BAE Systems shipyard in Portsmouth

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THE details of two different task forces, set up in the wake of BAE Systems stopping its shipbuilding in Portsmouth, have been revealed.

Prime minister David Cameron announced a Solent Maritime Task Force would be established to link the government, Ministry of Defence and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.

It will be led by retired Rear-Admiral Rob Stevens, who attended a board meeting of the Solent LEP on Monday ahead of the task force beginning its work to support those affected by the announcement.

‘It will involve the two cities, Portsmouth and Southampton, and we want to bring BAE Systems into the mix,’ said the Solent LEP’s Gary Jeffries, who will be taking over as its chairman, see panel.

‘It would be better to have the two task forces merged,’ he added.

The second of those task forces is being run by the city council.

It has been divided into two groups – one looking at lessening the local impact and finding alternative work on the site, and the other looking at supporting those made redundant.

The first will be chaired by council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, and the second by Kathy Wadsworth, the council’s director of regeneration.

Task force members include Southampton City Council, BAE Systems, business leaders, local colleges, skills agencies, unions, the naval base and government bodies.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We’ve decided to split the task force into two main groups to focus on two key areas.

‘The starting point of that was BAE saying they had 111 vacancies in the maritime services part.

‘What they’re going to do is offer voluntary redundancy to people across both maritime services and naval ships, so if there are people who want to retire or do something else, it frees up a job for someone who wants to move across from shipbuilding.

‘The aim of the two groups is to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies which have to be made, and if we are able to get it down to zero per cent then so much the better.

‘The other team is focusing on looking for additional work to come into the dockyard, talking to ministers about what work there might be from the Ministry of Defence, and looking at what other companies will want to come into the dockyard.’