A package of measures has been put in place to support workers affected by the closure of Swindon’s Honda factory in July next year.

Almost a year after the Japanese carmaker announced it would be closing its South Marston base, a co-ordinated programme of welfare support is established with Honda itself leading the way to support its employees.

Honda of the UK Manufacturing, Honda R&D, Honda Trading, Honda Logistics and other direct suppliers, have been supported by a range of local and national partners. These have included Swindon Borough Council, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Department for Education Funding Agency, Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, local colleges and other training providers, the National Careers Service and others.

The Honda and Supply Chain Coordinating Steering Group, led by Swindon Borough Council, met recently ahead of today’s (10 Feb) national Honda Taskforce to identify additional support for Honda workers and those working in the supply chain when production stops in 18 months’ time.

Business teams at Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council are making links between potential employers and the Honda of the UK Manufacturing and supply chain HR teams, in order to focus training on actual job opportunities.

Through the Community and Well-being Task Group, organisations such as MIND, Citizens Advice Bureau, Swindon Borough Council, Nationwide Building Society, Swindon Churches Together, Sovereign Housing and Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group have all volunteered their time to work together to support anyone directly affected by the closure. This included producing a brochure outlining free-to-use redundancy support around health and financial well-being as well as offering direct support to those that need it.

Swindon Borough Council has also set aside £200,000 to help Honda workers and companies within the supply chain. Half of the money has been used to unlock further funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) SME Competitiveness Programme, which will provide start-up support as well as support to companies in the Honda supply chain. The remaining funding will support Honda workers as and when required.

Honda of the UK Manufacturing has appointed a specialist company to support staff who are either looking to find new jobs locally or start up their own businesses.

Employees have had access to a series of training needs assessments as well as a range of foundation and specialist courses. Job-hunting support is also in place for all workers.

Councillor Oliver Donachie, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Place and member of the Honda Steering Group, said: “Twelve months on and the signs remain positive that Swindon is well-placed to rebound from the disappointment of car production ending at the Honda plant next year.

“Ranked eighth in the latest Good Growth for Cities index, Swindon is lucky to have a diverse, growing economy and over the past year, BMW, Nationwide and Zurich have announced fresh investments in their operations here.

“The Honda factory will continue to turn out hundreds of new vehicles on a daily basis until July 2021, so the pace and nature of our support needs to dovetail with the company’s timescales and processes as it phases redundancies between now and the end of production.

“I know that Honda of the UK Manufacturing has invested significantly in providing wellbeing support for its Swindon workforce, along with training and development and financial planning advice. The company has also put aside a substantial amount of money to meet workforce redundancy costs.

“The Steering Group continues to reach out to Honda’s supply chain to support their goal of identifying potential new customers for when the factory eventually closes.”

A Supply Chain Task Group is also supporting direct suppliers to diversify and win subsequent contracts, while support is available for at-risk employees. National partners have organised a 2020 ‘Meet the Buyer’ event for automotive manufacturing suppliers and Honda Tier One supply chain companies on 3 June at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.

Another group of stakeholders, led by the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, is looking at the main South Marston site. This group has considered future opportunities for the site, while ensuring Swindon’s need for additional investment and support is heard at a national level working with the town’s MPs, councillors and Local Enterprise Partnership.

Paddy Bradley, Director of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership and member of the Honda Sites Task Group, said: “The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Industrial Strategy outlines the area’s challenges and opportunities for economic growth and recognises the national and local significance of the Honda site and workforce.

“This is one of the UK’s largest, active, relatively constraint-free employment sites with several thousand productive local employees with a range of skills. Although Honda owns the site and will ultimately decide who it is sold to, the Sites Task Group is keen to support a future use which sees more of the site becoming operational, with a range of manufacturing and other high-value employment, ideally with some skills and innovation support.”

Any Swindon and Wiltshire-based Tier One manufacturing suppliers who are not in contact with any of the Honda Task Groups can email: support@swindon.gov.uk for further details about the support that is available.