Monday, 30 January 2012
Increasing concerns for the Coryton oil refinery has led to Thurrock Council Leader, Cllr John Kent, taking more steps to try and secure its future.
On Friday (27 January) Cllr Kent wrote to Charles Hendry MP, the Minister of State for Energy and to fellow council leaders from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), seeking support and more direct help for the refinery.
He said: "The importance of this business to our economy in Thurrock, in south Essex and far wider afield is well known and I feel we should keep up the pressure on decision-makers not to let this slip out of focus."
To the minister, Cllr Kent wrote: "You held a meeting of stakeholders [...] which was attended by our Chief Executive, Graham Farrant, and I attended a meeting with local partners at the same time.
"The purpose of this letter is to confirm the council's support for the business, to set out the key areas where we think that urgent action is required and to seek your support for the ongoing actions."
He says the council is "happy to talk to any potential purchasers of the business and to identify publicly how the continued location of an oil refinery at Coryton fits well with our long-term plans for the area."
In addition, he writes how the council will seek to support employees and local business suppliers to the refinery who will have concerns for their futures, adding: "We should consider short-term measures to reduce these effects, such as a possible revolving loan fund to provide short-term cash flow to these businesses."
Cllr Kent asked the minister if he could confirm "the options that your Department are able to offer to ensure that we minimise the effect of the potential closure on the local economy, and let me know the best specific contacts for each of these."
And he concludes: "I am aware that you have committed to continuing the close dialogue as events unfold and I welcome this."
To his colleagues at Southend, Medway, Essex, Kent and East Sussex - the SELEP - Cllr Kent wrote: "Thurrock Council is determined to do all it can to prevent closure and, were the worst to happen, do all it can to help those affected back into work as quickly as possible.
"I am conscious that you, as Leaders of upper tier authorities, may well have valuable experience of dealing with issues not dissimilar to this, and [...] would be grateful for any support or advice you are able to give."
He said: "The future success of this refinery is very important to me personally as well as to the area as a whole and I will work with anyone to that end.
"The administrators have made it clear that they want Coryton to continue as a going concern and that is my absolute aim too, but it is prudent that we prepare for every eventuality."
Cllr Kent has already spoken to County Councillor Kevin Bentley, cabinet member for Economic Development, who is fully behind the need for action on the issue
Cllr Bentley said: "This is an issue of utmost importance not just for Thurrock and Essex but the whole of the South East.
"It is vital we get all the relevant parties together to ensure we have a coherent plan around the future of the Coryton refinery and supporting its employees. Essex County Council is committed to working with Thurrock Council to take this forward."