MP calls for 'best deal' for threatened mill workers

MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has called for urgent talks on the future of 176 staff at a Somerset paper mill who are facing redundancy at Christmas.

He is expected to meet senior management at Wansbrough Paper Mill in Watchet early next week just days after parent company D S Smith announced the plant’s closure.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, Conservative member for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said it was essential the workers received the best possible severance package – and that every opportunity was taken to explore other employment possibilities in the area.

He said it was an ‘immense tragedy’ that paper-making was coming to an end on the site after some 265 years.

“I recognise the fact that the decision to close the mill has been taken with great reluctance, and that there are strong commercial reasons for it, including the loss of a large contract and the huge necessary investment to comply with both the higher quality demands of the market and more stringent pollution controls in the future,” he said.

“I also accept that justifying investment on such a scale at what is already a loss-making facility is difficult.

“All the same this is a massive blow to Watchet and could hardly be landing at a worse time of the year.

“Paper-making has been part of the town’s life for two and a half centuries and the real tragedy is that the closure is going to happen despite the presence of a skilled, dedicated and very enthusiastic workforce which over the years has acquired a wonderful reputation.

“These are the people we must really be looking after. I want to reassure myself that they are going to get the best severance terms possible and that every effort will be made to find them alternative employment, where possible, within the group.

“At the same time we should be alerting potential new investors in the area of the presence of a group of workers who currently represent one of Watchet’s finest assets.”