Devastating blow to Valleys community as food firm goes into administration
Around 250 jobs are being lost in one of Wales’ most deprived areas as it was confirmed that a food factory has gone into administration.
Tillery Valley Foods, in Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent, confirmed the widely predicted bad news on Wednesday.
Stephen Bolton, executive chairman of Joubere Ltd, which owns the factory, said: “I am heartbroken for all our staff members and for the town of Abertillery as the loss of Tillery Valley Foods is a devastating blow for the town. I am deeply sorry that despite the best efforts of all involved we have not been able to save the business.
“We bought the business 20 months ago and walked straight into the teeth of the energy crisis. In our first year of ownership, we were hit by £2m of energy cost increases across gas, electricity and fuel which put enormous pressure on the business. Added to this, the last nine months of inflationary increases in the cost of ingredients and packaging materials have proven too much for the business to recover from.
“Given the importance of the business to the region, we had hoped we might elicit some support from the Welsh government, particularly in the light of the extraordinary energy cost increase we faced, but despite actively engaging with them over the last seven months, nothing has been forthcoming.”
“I am also very conscious of the importance of this business in the supply of meals to patients in hospital beds across England, and we have worked very closely with NHS England over the last seven weeks to try and ensure that contingency plans are in place to minimise disruption.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This extremely disappointing news will be a major blow for such a dedicated workforce, their families and the wider community.
“We have worked intensively with the local management team and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council throughout the last week to explore options for a management buyout. The Economy Minister met the team and the plant’s unions several times during that time to seek a resolution.
“The tireless efforts of the local management buyout team helped to demonstrate that a viable business is a genuine prospect at the site and we continue to consider how this could be developed further, despite today’s news, in order to secure a successful business in the longer term.
“It is deeply regrettable that the leadership of the outgoing company did not provide the openness and transparency required to allow the time needed for a strong business plan to be developed. Over a period of months, we have repeatedly sought information from the leadership of the outgoing business to help prevent this outcome and develop alternative options. Unfortunately the information has not been forthcoming in a clear and timely manner.
“We will now establish an urgent taskforce alongside the local authority, Community Union, local elected representatives and DWP. This will include Welsh Government support via Careers Wales and the ReAct programme, with tailored packages of support designed to help the workforce find new job opportunities.”
Rob Edwards, Community Union’s regional secretary for Wales, said: “This is devastating news for the workforce who have continued working above and beyond amidst great uncertainty for their futures.
“We are working tirelessly to support our members and again call on the Welsh and UK governments to do all that they can to secure a future for TVF and its skilled, dynamic, loyal and dedicated workforce.
“Any potential sale of the business must be responsible and respect the needs of the workforce and local community.
“We will work with the current owners, the administrators and any potential buyers to ensure that workers are represented in this process.”
Blaenau Gwent Labour MS Alun Davies said: “This will be devastating news for a workforce that has worked hard and delivered on everything that has been asked of it. People in the town and the wider area will feel the weight of this news.
“While this news has become public over the last few weeks I have been working with the Welsh Government and the local authority for many months to find a future for the business and to safeguard jobs. This work has intensified over recent weeks as everyone has worked together to resolve the issues facing the company.
“On Wednesday afternoon I met with the Welsh Government, the Economy Minister and Blaenau Gwent council to redouble these efforts to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the search for new owners or new investors and to ensure that any buy-out is given all the support it requires.
“I have also asked the minister to ensure that there is a taskforce created to provide support for workers who lose their jobs. The factory and its land is an essential part of the economy of the borough. The council and the Welsh Government also need to ensure that new jobs are created in the area to ensure that new opportunities are created for the future.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.