Jobs boost for Kirkham factory

KIRKHAM has been given an employment boost with the announcement this week that the town's Fox's Biscuits factory is to create around 80 new jobs.

Northern Foods - which owns Fox's - revealed on Tuesday that it is to pour 26.5 million into a major investment programme for the firm over the next 18 months.

The Kirkham manufacturing site has escaped job cuts.

Northern Foods said 220 jobs are to go at Fox's two other manufacturing sites in Batley and Uttoxeter as a result of the new investment which is intended to improve the competitiveness of the Fox's business.

In a statement on Tuesday the company said: "Northern Foods is starting investment in Project Golden ahead of schedule, with an improved structure which will maximise the use of all current sites.

"Fox's will invest in new automated technology over the next 18 months, including a new production line for its Melts and Moulded chocolate at Batley, a new biscuits wrapping system at Uttoxeter and a new production line at Kirkham. All technology is portable for use at other sites in the future.

"The company's objective is to transition from three sites to two world class facilities, which would further improve the competitive position of Fox's Biscuits.

"Plans for further phases of investment will be reviewed once the investment announced today is completed in 2011.

"Investing in new technology will see approximately 80 roles created at Kirkham as part of installing new production lines.

"Overall, Fox's will see a net reduction of approximately 220 employees.

"These roles will be reduced across the Batley and Uttoxeter sites, mainly through voluntary redundancy, with exact numbers to be confirmed subject to a consultation period. All sites will now remain open during this investment programme."

Stefan Barden, Chief Executive of Northern Foods, said: "This is a major investment which demonstrates our belief in the long term success of the Fox's brand.

"At a time when many companies are cutting spending, we are today signalling the go ahead for Project Golden and investing 26.5 million across all of our sites.

"Our investment in this great business established over 150 years ago in 1853, will help to ensure Fox's is around for another 150 years."

Kirkham ward councillor Liz Oades said: "Obviously I'm delighted that we haven't suffered any cuts and indeed have seen a growth and have benefited from the situation and it is good news to keep the economy buoyant."

John Coombes, leader of Fylde Borough Council, said: "Obviously it is excellent news with the jobs losses being announced at BAE.

"The council will be keen to sit down with Fox's Biscuits and discuss future plans."

He said Coun Albert Pounder, the new portfolio holder for economic development, was touring the borough meeting small, medium and large scale businesses.