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Honda task force insists it is "working behind the scenes" to help employees

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The Honda plantThe Honda plantThe task force charged with helping the 3,500 Honda workers who will lose their jobs after the Swindon manufacturing plant closes in 2021 has insisted it is "working behind the scenes".

A lengthy statement, issued on Friday, seems to have been made to address concerns that the task force has, apparently, not met since June.

The task force was convened by the-business secretary Greg Clarke after the company announced, back in February, that it would close the factory by 2021 with the loss of 3,500 jobs, along with thousands more in the supply chain.

Mr Clarke was replaced by Andrea Leadsom in Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle after he was elected leader of the Conservative Party. It is not known whether prominent Brexiteer Mrs Leadsom has visited Swindon since taking office.

Earlier this month, Labour's parliamentary candidate for South Swindon, Sarah Church, told BBC Wiltshire: ""In less than two years this site will be closed. It will be a really significant hit to our local economy. This should be the highest priority for local politicians.

"I'm aware they are distracted by Brexit, but this is locally huge and the fact they haven't met since June doesn't instil any confidence they have a plan to tackle this problem."

On Friday, Swindon Council said partners were working "behind the scenes to support Honda staff and supply chain."

Oliver Donachie, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for economy and place, and member of the Honda Steering Group, insisted: “The Honda Steering Group, which includes representatives from the company, is meeting on a regular basis because it is paramount we ensure that the most appropriate support is in place for workers when they need it."

He said “the pace and nature of our support needs to dovetail with the companies’ timescales and processes as it phases redundancies between now and the end of production at the plant in 2021," and admitted "there is still a great deal still to do."

He said Honda was putting "a huge amount of support in place for associates" and asserted that "part of the work of the steering group is to bolster those efforts in the right way, at the right time."

The statement listed the achievements of the task force, which include "wellbeing information pack for those people affected, highlighting the free-to-use support available locally both for employees and their families" and "engaging with local and national stakeholders to organise a 2020 Meet the Buyer event."

The task force has also been "supporting Honda of the UK Manufacturing in understanding how its South Marston site could be used in the future to provide the most impactful legacy for the community and economy, while maintaining a local agenda aimed at ensuring it remains a core employment site."

Ultimately, of course, it will be up to Honda who buys the site and – planning consent permitting – what it is used for.