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Business secretary Greg Clark to discuss fate of Colman's and Britvic jobs

PUBLISHED: 12:26 20 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:26 20 November 2017

Greg Clark, secretary of state for business

Greg Clark, secretary of state for business

PA Archive/PA Images

A team from the region's local enterprise partnership will meet the business secretary tonight to discuss how they can encourage Britvic and Unilever to retain production and jobs in Norwich.

The meeting comes as the two manufacturers prepare to make a decision over their futures in the city, with more than 350 jobs potentially at risk.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership says it has been working with local partners and the two companies to discuss the options available.

The meeting has been organised by Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who met business secretary Greg Clark last month over the issue, when he requested this evening’s meeting. Since then she has worked to ensure “government is on standby to support employees and the future of manufacturing in Norwich” ahead of the two companies’ decisions, she said.

As well as meeting senior management at both companies, and working with constituents, unions, and county and city councils, Ms Smith said she had:

• Spoken with agriculture and food minister George Eustice to seek DEFRA’s influence on Unilever’s decision, find out what support the department can offer and what funding is available for the supply chain, which is spread across East Anglia.

• Spoken to the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure its rapid response service is available for the workforce of both companies if necessary;

• Spoken with the minister for international trade to find out how the department could identify future opportunities for investment in Norwich.

Ms Smith said: “I will be asking the business secretary today to put government’s power behind the best way to support employees and production in Norwich. He is keen to review the options with the LEP, so that we can identify a positive way forward for Norwich jobs and heritage.

“This is still a very anxious time for everyone working for Britvic and Unilever in Norwich. Right up to the last minute, we need to continue to make the case for both businesses staying in Norwich. I’m grateful to the public who’ve demonstrated the strength of feeling there is for these sites to remain open.

“I have worked hard behind the scenes in parliament and with the companies so far and will carry on doing so to support my constituents.”

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has also been involved in the fight to keep the two companies and their jobs in Norwich.

On Saturday, this newspaper challenged the business secretary to explain how he was working to retain highly-skilled jobs across the county, following the announcements in quick succession that BAE Systems at RAF Marham was to cut more than 200 jobs, and the CITB in west Norfolk was also proposing to relocate, putting a question mark over the future of its 575 staff at Bircham Newton.

READ MORE: What are you doing about Norfolk’s 1,150 potential job losses? We demand answers from the government

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