May 2000

LOCAL INDUSTRY IN WORRIES OVER HIGH POUND
The news this month has been dominated by developments in local industry.
There has been considerable anxiety over the future of Llanwern steelworks, which has been badly hit by the high level of the pound. Last year’s merger between British Steel and Corus, the Dutch Steelmaker, has already led to concern over jobs at the Llanwern plant. Members of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union have joined delegations to Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. It is estimated that, should the plant close, not only the 3,000 workers directly employed at Llanwern but also a further 9,000 contractors and others would lose their jobs.
Graham Bevington, the new Managing Director at Mitel, Caldicot’s biggest employer, also stated that the exchange rate was causing problems. While pointing out that, while there were no fears for the future of the Caldicot factory, planned expansion might be diverted away from the UK into Europe.
Meanwhile, several months of speculation came to an end with the sale of Whitbread Brewery to the Belgian company, Interbrew. Whitbread has sold all its breweries in order to concentrate on its leisure concerns, primarily the Merriott Hotel Chain, which includes St Pierre Hotel and golf course. The Magor brewery is a major employer in the Caldicot area, with 400 workers. Brian Birchall, Whitbread director for Wales, spoke to workers at the plant to reassure them that there was no immediate threat to jobs.

ROW OVER SCHOOL BUILDING WORK
A row has broken out in Caldicot political circles over proposals to temporarily close Green Lane School while essential building work is carried out. Monmouthshire County Council officials had originally recommended that pupils should be transferred to other school sites during the work but parents, supported by the local branch of Plaid Cymru, strongly objected, forcing a reversal of the decision.

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