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BAE Systems workers’ skills will be in demand, say business leaders

Tornado GR4s returning to RAF Marham from operations over Libya. Picture: Ian Burt

Tornado GR4s returning to RAF Marham from operations over Libya. Picture: Ian Burt

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Businesses have been in touch with BAE Systems as they seek to keep skills in Norfolk, according to industry leaders.

The defence giant announced it was proposing to cut more than 200 jobs at RAF Marham on Tuesday with the Tornado aircraft poised to retire from service in 2019.

Both Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have said they will support the local council and workers to redeploy their skills where possible.

Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The news from BAE Systems is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising given that the Tornado is soon to be taken out of service.

“We’re confident that the skills offered by these workers will be in high demand in the local economy and we are aware of some businesses which have already been in touch with BAE.

“We’re working with all local partners to explore future opportunities.”

The news comes on the back of drinks maker Britvic announcing plans to close its Norwich factory, also casting doubt over the future of the Colman’s Mustard factory, owned by Unilever, which shares the site.

Nova Fairbank, public affairs manager at Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed cuts would have an impact on the supply chain around RAF Marham as well as the base itself.

She said: “Norfolk Chamber has already been in contact with the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, who have confirmed that they are in direct communication with BAE Systems and will be offering the relevant support as it is required. The chamber will continue to work in conjunction with our partners to support those who may be affected, including those within the local supply chain.

“This latest announcement is unfortunate, especially following on the back on the potential manufacturing jobs losses at Britvic and Colman’s in Norwich.”

Theresa May has promised to promote the UK’s defence industry around the world, following the news that BAE is to cut almost 2,000 jobs across the country. She told MPs the Department for Work and Pensions “will make sure that they work with people and ensure they have all the support they need to look for new jobs”.

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