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Parker Pen Company: Newhaven

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 9 September 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will take steps to limit the likely negative effects of the proposed closure of the Parker Pen factory in Newhaven on the local businesses. (288871)

[holding answer 21 July 2009]: Support to local businesses and work force to help them manage the impact of the proposed closure of the Parker Pen factory in Newhaven is delivered through a number of regional and local agencies. The range of support mechanisms that is currently available includes all the following.

“South East England Development Agency (SEEDA)” is providing a range of support mechanisms. SEEDA’s Investor Development Manager and a broker from the Continuing Employment Support Service (CESS) have been in contact with Parker Pens. An offer of support is being put together for the company to consider. If accepted, there could be a local taskforce involving SEEDA and key partners such as Jobcentre Plus, Business Link, the local council and local recruitment agencies. This would support the work force and possibly also local businesses which form part of the supply chain for Parker Pens, and for whom the closure may have a significant impact.

“East Sussex County Council (ESCC)” has set up a ‘Recession Task Force’. This group shares key information and co-ordinates work between different organisations, and provides practical support for ideas from a wide range of sources, including drawing on the Government’s ‘Real Help Now’ programme. The Task Force includes representatives from the district and borough councils, Jobcentre Plus, major employers such as the NHS, local business support bodies such as Business Link and Trading Standards, and representatives from the voluntary and community sector, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. ESCC has set up a £1 million Recession Fund to help the county through the recession. The funding will be spent on a wide range of initiatives and partnerships aimed at helping firms, families and individuals to fight the credit crunch. Projects include supporting small businesses by offering more support and speeding up the payment of invoices. In November 2008, the Council provided £100,000 to enable Business Link Sussex to offer specialist help to local businesses and grants to the local Credit Unions—community-based savings and loans organisations—to make it easier for people to access loans and protect residents from the loan sharks. Through the Fund a grant of £75,000 has been allocated towards the Newhaven community-based NewCEP Extra project—which will be used, with a focus on Parker Pens, to assist 125 clients with job search, action planning and skills development.

“Business Link (enterprise gateway service)” helps people facing barriers in starting up their own businesses. They offer a four-step programme called Building Business Confidence and a one-to-one mentoring service. They work locally with partner organisations such as Jobcentre Plus, NewCEP and Sussex Downs College, as well as social enterprises in the region, to identify individuals who are interested in self-employment.

“Newhaven's Enterprise Centre” funded by SEEDA at a cost of £4.75 million provides 2,000 sq m of new space. The Centre has been developed by Lewes District Council in conjunction with specialist managed business centre operators Basepoint plc. It provides 44 units offering a wide range of high quality office space and workshops designed for all sectors of small to medium businesses and to encourage new and micro enterprises.

SEEDA has started a relevant new service in the “South East Women’s Business Service”. There will be two women’s business advisers in Sussex, and they will provide intensive women-friendly business adviser support to women considering enterprise (pre-start) from the Business Link enterprise gateway service’s priority groups and areas. For example it will support those who are disadvantaged, from groups under-represented in business or facing barriers to enterprise. They will be offering assistance to vulnerable early-stage, women-owned businesses, assisting self-employed women or women-owned businesses to stabilise and improve their performance.

Contact has been made by “Sussex Downs College (SDC)” with Parker Pens, and employees will be offered support through its ‘Response to Redundancy’-funded ‘Navigate’ programme. SDC is the main further education provider covering the Newhaven area, with a campus in Newhaven at Denton Island Training Centre, and has wide experience of working in the town.

As the Skills Secretary announced on 21 October 2008, in a package of measures responding to the economic downturn, the LSC has £100 million to support workers affected by redundancy. It is making available £50 million from the European Social Fund (ESF) and £50 million through Train to Gain to boost skills interventions for individuals: those under notice of redundancy; those recently made redundant; and those that are unemployed and further from the labour market but could be made ready for work with a skills development support package. The aim of the Redundancy Support Programme is to ensure adults aged 18 and over in these groups are provided with the high-quality training and education support that they need to enable them to continue in, or enter or re-enter employment and contribute positively to the local labour market.