Almost 200 jobs are under threat after an insurance company said it is to close its Fylde offices in a move described by unions as “brutal”.
ReAssure has announced that it will close its Ballam Road office in around 12 months time bringing an end to 45 years of life and insurance work there.
The staff may have a chance to transfer to the company’s other offices but otherwise the roles are to be made redundant.
The news was greeted with dismay in Lytham after more losses to an industry which was once the major employer in the area.
And the Unite union said the closure was even more devastating as generations of families work alongside one another in this large local employer and now face an uncertain future with little prospect of local employment.
John Nolan, Unite regional officer said: “The news of the ReAssure site closing in Lytham will be a total shock to the workforce of 200 people. This is utterly brutal and completely devastating news for hundreds of families.
“These long serving and local finance employees have worked hard to make ReAssure a success and they are being betrayed by this management decision to close the Lytham site.
“The first staff cuts will come as early as September, with the site totally shut by early 2018.
“The reality is that employees will have little prospect of finding alternative local employment.
“This news will not only impact the staff but all the local businesses connected to this site.
“Unite has had no explanation as to why this site is being closed.
“The union is calling on ReAssure to reconsider this decision and save these important local jobs.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “Guardian has had a long relationship with Lytham and it is extremely disappointing that after so many years of its workforce being run down, its parent company has taken the decision to pull the remaining jobs it has in the town.
“When I was told about this by Guardian, I expressed my severe disappointment to them.
“I would ask them to look again at the situation and to see if there is any assistance I can give to them as the MP for Fylde. My door is open.”
Fylde Borough Councillor Mark Bamforth said: “This is the loss of good quality, long-standing jobs that are very important to the town.
“Most of the people working there go into town to get their lunches, magazines and visit the high street so this will have a long term effect on our economy.
“Insurance was once a boom industry here when Barry Fothergill was in charge, but now it has totally changed.”
The company was previously known as Guardian Financial Services until it was taken over early last year by ReAssure, part of the Zurich-based Swiss Re group in a £1.6bn deal.
It specialises in so-called “closed book” insurance, policies that are no longer sold but still pay premiums.
Staff at the Lytham office were told early on Tuesday of the closure and of the possibility of transfer to follow the work to ReAssure’s head office in Telford or to its office in Hitchin.
In a statement, the company said: “ReAssure made this announcement to the Lytham staff earlier today and will immediately begin consultation with Unite the Union about its proposal to close the office over the coming months.
“The Lytham office is the smallest of ReAssure’s four locations, with less than 200 employees.
“It is an important part of ReAssure’s strategy to ensure that it will have the optimal office setup, necessary for its continued growth through future acquisitions, while simultaneously offering the highest level of operational efficiency possible.
“The ReAssure management team acknowledges that this is difficult news for the employees and their families, and they will now start consultations with the union in to make sure the Lytham employees are supported throughout this challenging transition period.
Regarding staff transfers, a ReAssure spokesman said: “It will be our proposal to move the work currently performed at this site into the two other ReAssure operated sites Telford and Hitchin.
“This will lead to potential opportunities for redeployment and relocation.”
Unite local representatives were at the site today and the union said they will be there over the coming weeks to support union members hit by this decision.