A member of a regional task force, set up to explore options for an under-threat pharmaceutical site in Northumberland, has visited the at-risk factory to receive an update on moves to save the site from possible closure and protect more than 130 jobs.
Northumberland County Council's business chairman Coun Scott Dickinson attended Covance, in Alnwick, last Thursday.
A more challenging European market and the end of contractual payments from Sanofi, from whom American firm Covance bought the site in 2010, mean that the future viability of the factory, which employs 132 people, is in doubt. In September, the staff were issued with consultation letters notifying them of the risk of redundancy.
Coun Dickinson, who is part of the task force, met Dr Sally Old, site lead at Alnwick, to hear how things are progressing.
He said: "This was a chance to see at first hand the important specialist work Covance does in Alnwick and to get an insight into the company’s extensive operations and the range of high-value drug development and scientific work that it undertakes.
"Covance has an excellent and loyal workforce at the Alnwick site and it is very important to the local economy.
"Many of the staff are from the local area and have been employed there for a long time and they offer strong expertise and skills in science and the pharmaceutical sector.
"I am confident that the company is doing its best to resolve the current issues and members of the task force are continuing to give their full support as Covance continues to look at the range of options available to it."
The task force, coordinated by Arch – The Northumberland Development Company, includes representatives from organisations such as the county council, The Centre for Process Innovation, UK Trade and Investment, Office for Life Sciences, Northumberland Learning and Skills Service and the Workforce Response Team from Jobcentre Plus.
The North East Chamber of Commerce is also playing an active role in the task force, which is coordinating efforts with the company and with local, regional and national authorities. The task force is looking at a range of options, including finding a buyer for the site, supporting any potential purchasers and supporting employees.