Questions over ‘national security’ raised as Ipswich factory faces closure

Questions have been raised over 'national security' as Lebronze Alloys faces closure. Picture: Tim I

Questions have been raised over 'national security' as Lebronze Alloys faces closure. Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Serious questions are being raised over national security after it was revealed an historic Ipswich metals company which works with many key suppliers to the Ministry of Defence could face closure.

Union Unite has raised a number of questions over Lebronze Alloys UK where all 85 workers at its Ipswich plant were reportedly told that production at the plant would cease and the site would close in June.

In a statement, Unite’s regional officer Neal Evans said the Ipswich factory was one of the last remaining UK-based suppliers of non-ferrous metals to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which the union says “clearly” raises issues regarding the supply chain and procurement policies.

Mr Evans also raised questions over the motives of management at the international company who he claims had always planned to close the factory and are using Covid-19 as an excuse.

He said: “There are serious questions that need to be asked in relation to the national security implications of one of the last UK suppliers of non-ferrous metals to the MoD being closed.

“We are also suspicious of the motives of the top executives as to whether they always wanted to close the Ipswich site which was bought from a competitor three years ago and that the coronavirus emergency is being used as a convenient smokescreen for closure.”

However, the Ministry of Defence says it does not have a direct contract with Lebronze Alloys confirming the company works with “many key suppliers”.

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A spokesperson said: “The MoD does not have any direct contracts with LeBronze Alloys, although the company works closely with many of our key suppliers in the maritime, aerospace and automotive industries.

“Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, we maintain a close dialogue with suppliers to monitor and mitigate potential impacts to defence outputs and equipment programmes. This includes discussions to understand the risks within the supply-chain as well as our suppliers’ own resilience planning.”

The site at Hadleigh Road Industrial Estate, which was formerly known as Bolton Metals, was taken over by French conglomerate Lebronze Alloys in 2017.

The site is believed to remain operational.

The full accounts for Lebronze Alloys UK, which were signed off on May 28, identified Covid-19 and Brexit as potential risks to the business.

However, the report concluded that “no significant direct implications are expected”.

Workers have also reportedly been working throughout lockdown, despite being told the site would close.

Mr Evans added: “As it stands, our members feel betrayed that they have worked through the lockdown only to discover they have accelerated their own redundancies.

“The management has been vague as to when the site will close and the timetable for redundancies, despite being pressed by Unite.

“We produced a counter proposal to keep the site open and secure the jobs of the highly skilled workforce, showing that the Ipswich operation is more efficient than the company’s other European plants – but today the company rejected our alternative proposal which is very short-sighted.

“Suffolk, a predominantly rural county, has only a small manufacturing base and can ill-afford to lose such highly skilled jobs at what is a profitable site.”

Lebronze Alloys has been approached for comment.

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