DAY­LIGHT RUB­BERY

Tyre gi­ants want to walk off with £8m grants

Sunday Mail (UK) - - Front Page - John Fer­gu­son

Miche­lin could quit Scot­land with £8mil­lion of tax­payer­funded ma­chin­ery.

The French f irm wants to close its Dundee fac­tory – at a cost of 845 jobs – de­spite hav­ing pock­eted huge state hand­outs.

One MSP has said “se­ri­ous ques­tions would be asked” if govern­ment-funded equip­ment is taken out of the

coun­try.

Miche­lin could walk away from Scot­land with £8mil­lion worth of state-of-the-art ma­chin­ery paid for by tax­pay­ers.

The French tyre gi­ants, who made £ 1.5bil lion in profit last year, have an­nounced plans to close their Dundee fac­tory in 2020, with the loss of 845 jobs.

Their chief ex­ec­u­tive, Jean-Dominique Se­nard, took the de­ci­sion de­spite hav­ing ac­cepted mil­lions in govern­ment money as re­cently as last year. It was used to buy hi-tech kit, which sources say is eas­ily “un­bolted and moved”.

The Sun­day Mail can to­day re­veal de­tails of the mas­sive sums of grant fund­ing and the in­dus­trial equip­ment it has been used to buy.

One north-east MSP has said “se­ri­ous ques­tions would need to be asked” if the ma­chin­ery is taken out of Scot­land.

Scot­tish En­ter­prise handed over an ini­tial £1.5mil­lion por­tion of a £4.5mil­lion grant to mod­ernise the site in June last year.

The money was spent buy­ing the first elec­tronic tyre cur­ing tech­nol­ogy to be in­stalled in a large Miche­lin plant any­where in the world.

In Septem­ber 2015, £1.1mil­lion was given to the com­pany to es­tab­lish a “lo­gis­tics hub” to in­crease the “ca­pa­bil­ity and longevity” of the Dundee op­er­a­tion.

In 2011, Scot­tish En­ter­prise an­nounced a £ 5.2mil­lion in­vest­ment of tax­pay­ers’ cash in the fac­tory.

The money was spent “in­vest­ing in new state of the art plant and equip­ment ca­pa­ble of man­u­fac­tur­ing the lat­est en­ergy saver tyre”.

John Reid, Miche­lin’s Dundee fac­tory man­ager, ad­mit­ted in 2012 that his firm had been handed “four or five times” more cash out of the Scot­tish Govern­ment than from any other ad­min­is­tra­tion in Eu­rope.

He said: “They’ve given us a level of grant sup­port, in­vest­ment sup­port, which is sec­ond to none.”

The firm re­fused to give a de­fin­i­tive an­swer on whether any money would be re­turned when con­tacted last week.

A source who has vis­ited the Dundee fac­tory said: “If a fi­nal de­ci­sion is taken to close the plant, this ma­chin­ery could eas­ily be re­lo­cated to one of Miche­lin’s other 75 man­u­fac­tur­ing plants around the world.

“The com­pany are ex­tremely se­cre­tive about their tech­nol­ogy and what they have that their com­peti­tors don’t.

“The fac­tory is hi-tech, they have ro­bots ev­ery­where, in the man­u­fac­tur­ing area and in the part of the build­ing where tyres are stacked and stored.

“It was wel l pub­li­cised that the equip­ment the last Govern­ment hand­out funded was the first to be in­stalled by Miche­lin any­where in the world.

“If Dundee closes, they aren’t just go­ing to leave it, shut the doors and move on. It’s likely go­ing to be un­bolted and shipped to an­other man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Eng­land or abroad.

“The Scot­tish Govern­ment will be fu­ri­ous that clo­sure plans weren’t men­tioned when mil­lions of pounds were be­ing handed over last year.

“It seems un­likely that the com­pany wouldn’t have been aware at that point that the long-term fu­ture of the place was un­der threat.”

Con­ser­va­tive MSP for North East Scot­land, Bill Bow­man, said: “These awards were made in recog­ni­tion of the work go­ing on in Dundee at the Miche­lin plant. As such, it would be com­pletely wrong for the equip­ment bought with this cash to be taken out of Scot­land.

“The ex­pec­ta­tion is any awards should have been agreed in such a way as to prioritise Dundee and the work­ers.

“If that’s not the case, se­ri­ous ques­tions would need to be asked.

“And if Miche­lin can’t find a use for it in Dundee, some­one else will.”

Scot­tish Greens co- con­vener Pa­trick Harvie said: “The ur­gent pri­or­ity must be to ex­plore ev­ery pos­si­ble way of safe­guard­ing peo­ple’s ex­ist­ing jobs.

“At the same time, it’s im­por­tant that when the pub­lic purse is opened for pri­vate com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially gi­ant multi­na­tion­als, there’s a guar­an­tee of last­ing ben­e­fit to the com­mu­nity.

“Miche­lin have not gone bust. They still have vast as­sets and if they do walk away from Dundee, they shouldn’t be tak­ing tax­payer-funded equip­ment with them.”

Scot­tish Lib Dem leader Wil­lie Ren­nie added: “I hope Miche­lin can be con­vinced to re­con­sider the de­ci­sion to close their plant in Dundee but if they’re de­ter­mined to shut up shop, it would be a wel­come ges­ture to re­turn these funds.”

Doc­u­ments re­leased to the Sun­day Mail un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion laws show

the com­pany re­ceived slices of pub­lic cash in six of the last seven years.

In 2011, the com­pany were given £35,391, £700,000 in 2012, and £406,340 in 2013. The firm were handed £700,000 in 2014 and £770,000 in 2015.

Scot­tish En­ter­prise records also show that Miche­lin were given £2.701mil­lion in 2017.

First Min­is­ter Nicola Stur­geon vis­ited the Dundee fac­tory in June that year and an­nounced they would re­ceive a fur­ther £ 4.5mil­lion of pub­lic cash.

The money was to help pay for green tech­nol­ogy and to fund ma­chines to pro­duce larger tyres in higher de­mand with the rise of SUVs.

The tyre cur­ing ma­chine was bought us­ing the first £1.5mil­lion of that money, with the other £ 3mil­lion still held by Scot­tish En­ter­prise.

Miche­lin blamed the clo­sure of the Dundee plant on lower de­mand for the smaller pre­mium tyres pro­duced there and an in­crease in cheap im­ports from Asia.

Scot­land’s Econ­omy Sec­re­tary Derek Mackay has formed a group tasked with try­ing to find a way of sav­ing the plant.

Miche­lin have agreed to look in de­tail at any res­cue pro­posal and if a plan is suc­cess­ful, it will al­most cer­tainly in­volve the Scot­tish Govern­ment agree­ing to pump in more money.

Mackay said: “The Scot­tish Govern­ment will leave no stone un­turned in our ef­forts to find a vi­able and sus­tain­able fu­ture for the plant and its skilled work­force.

“The ac­tion group will work tire­lessly to ex­plore all op­tions and pro­vide Miche­lin with a propo­si­tion that demon­strates what sup­port can of­fered, be it busi­ness rates or fi­nan­cial aid, to help re­tain a pres­ence in Dundee.”

Scot­tish En­ter­prise said: “As part of the ac­tion group, we are com­mit­ted to work­ing with part­ners to pro­tect the fu­ture of the Dundee site and will do ev­ery­thing within our pow­ers to find a vi­able so­lu­tion and se­cure em­ploy­ment for the peo­ple lef t dev­as­tated by this an­nounce­ment.”

We got four or five times the av­er­age that’s given to Miche­lin abroad

FACT FIN­DER Derek Mackay vis­its the fac­tory on Tues­day be­fore an­nounc­ing the ac­tion group IN PERIL Clos­ing the Dundee fac­tory would cost 845 staff their jobs

DE­CI­SION MAK­ERS Se­nard, right, with pre­vi­ous boss Michel Rol­lier

STATE OF THE ART Work­ers in the Dundee fac­tory ex­am­ine tyres

PAY­BACK TIME The Miche­lin man has done very nicely out of Scot­land’s tax­pay­ers IN­FLATED COSTS Reid shows Stur­geon round the fac­tory last year

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