Politicians from across the political spectrum have come together in an attempt to find a permanent and workable solution for Newtown-based homeware and fashion business, Laura Ashley.
Following news that the company had entered into administration last month, local representatives, Russell George AM and Craig Williams MP have convened a series of video conference meetings with the company's administrators, its Chief Executive, the Secretary of State for Wales, Rt. Hon. Simon Hart MP; and the Welsh Government Minister for Business, Ken Skates AM, in an effort to find a solution which would secure the business' long-term future in Mid Wales.
Speaking after these important meetings, Mr George said:
"I'm pleased that both the Secretary of State for Wales and Welsh Government Minister for Business were both supportive of Laura Ashley and are united in joining me and Craig Williams MP in our efforts to find a permanent solution for the company, not just because it is an iconic Mid Wales business with a 60 year history of operating in Mid Wales but also because it is an internationally renowned brand.
"We are all unanimous in our view that a restructured business could reinvigorate the company's fortunes, saving hundreds of highly skilled Mid Wales jobs and retaining the company's base in Newtown.
"However, we also recognise that the company is at a critical juncture and that it will be a significant challenge, especially given that any potential buyer will have their own views on how they would like to restructure the business, and given the fact that we live in such uncertain times as we continue to navigate the worst economic and societal effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.
"The retention of Newtown as a base for the business has numerous benefits as many of the existing manufacturing facilities are ready to go in producing high quality products and there is also an availability of highly-skilled and loyal staff, but it will undoubtedly be a challenge to persuade any new buyer to base the business in Newtown as they clearly don't have the emotional attachment to Laura Ashley's heritage which we all possess. Nevertheless, we will all do our very best to promote Newtown as a base for the company going forward."
Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, Craig Williams, said:
"I was pleased to be able to facilitate a meeting between the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, the administrators and the CEO of Laura Ashley, so that they could demonstrate what support they require to attract a buyer and ensure that potential investors recognise the importance of Laura Ashley to Newtown.
"It would be massive blow to the local economy if a viable solution can't be found so both Russell and I are doing our very best to facilitate dialogue with the UK Government and Welsh Government to ensure that Mid Wales jobs can be protected.
"Everyone has committed to doing all they can to find a support package which would deliver a new vision and business model for the company and find a solution which will preserve the company's operations in Mid Wales for all of Laura Ashley's loyal staff and their extended families which rely on the business for their livelihoods."
Mr George added:
"I have been genuinely impressed how politicians at all levels of Government are working constructively on a cross party basis and know that the Mayor of Newtown, David Selby, who worked for Laura Ashley for 17 years, is also keen to lend his support from the Town Council's perspective to ensure that Laura Ashley has a long term future in Newtown."