The government has been accused of “betraying” hundreds of oil refinery workers set to lose their jobs after ministers revealed that they will not not apply to the European Commission for permission to use state funds to keep the refinery open.
The decision will affect workers at the Coryton plant in Essex, where hundreds of jobs will be axed.
The future of the refinery, which is the biggest provider of petrol and diesel in the south east of England, has been in doubt since February, when it went into liquidation.
The Labour Party, unions and refinery supporters had pressed ministers to consider putting up cash to keep the refinery going until administrators found a buyer, but the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said overcapacity in the refining industry meant it would not be sustainable to provide government help.
The Unite workers union attacked today's announcement. Unite's assistant general secretary, Tony Burke, said: “The closure of Coryton will have a devastating impact on the local community and the wider economy, sucking out over £100 million and leading to the loss of hundreds of skilled jobs.
“This is a government which talks about supporting manufacturing yet sits on its hands and does little to support manufacturing growth.”
GMB union official Phil Whitehurst, added: “The news that ministers are citing overcapacity in the industry is nonsense.
“Coryton supplies 20% of the fuel used in London and the South East of England. It is also a very important hub of employment in the Essex economy and part of our national infrastructure.
“How can the government just sit back and let 850 refinery workers lose their jobs? Most will not be able to get work in the immediate area in their specialised professions.
“The closure will also have a devastating effect on local businesses and the supply chain to the refinery.”
DECC said: “It is extremely disappointing that the administrators haven't been able to find a buyer who could provide investment required to keep Coryton operating as a refinery.
“If government did step in to help Coryton, this would be a short-term fix, and it could potentially lead to job losses at other refineries who would be at an unfair disadvantage to Coryton.
“This was a very difficult decision and it is particularly regrettable that people may lose their jobs.
“We are working with local agencies and Jobcentre Plus to ensure the right support is in place if it's required to help these skilled workers find new positions.
Thurrock Council commissioned an economic impact assessment of the closure or change of use of the site, which found it would cost £30 million in wages, £26 million in contractor costs, £6 million in locally sourced materials, £40 million spent on chemicals and utilities, and £5 million in business rates.
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