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Premier Foods to shut Knighton factory, impacting 300 jobs | Business News

Premier Foods, the maker of Oxo stock cubes and Mr Kipling cakes, has announced plans to close a plant in the West Midlands, putting more than 300 jobs at risk.

Premier Foods said on Thursday morning that the site in Knighton, which straddles the border between England and Wales, had become unprofitable and would be shut by the middle of 2023.

The company is currently in negotiations with staff working at the factory, which predominantly makes powdered drinks.

The move will cost the business about £10m, Premier Foods said.

“It is recognised that this will be an unsettling time for those c.300 colleagues who are potentially affected by these proposals, and they will be fully supported and consulted with throughout the process,” the company said in a statement.

The announcement comes on the back of successive quarters of strong financial results for the company.

In the final three months of 2022, Premier Foods saw group sales rise by 12% compared with the previous year, with grocery sales up by 17% and international sales up by 10%.

Before that, Premier Foods had enjoyed three successful years thanks to increased consumption during the pandemic, rewarding shareholders with a 20% increase in dividend payouts in 2022.

Alex Whitehouse, chief executive of Premier Foods, said: “These results illustrate the continuing appeal of our portfolio of market-leading brands in such a challenging environment and demonstrate the strength and resilience of our branded growth model.

Mr Kipling is part of Premier Foods
Mr Kipling is part of Premier Foods

“Our major grocery brands produced a particularly good set of results for us, continuing to grow faster than the market. Across the country, people got cooking again this Christmas.”

Premier Foods employs more than 4,000 people operating from 15 sites across the country, supplying retailers and wholesale with brands such as Bistro, Ambrosia, Bachelors, Loyd Grossman, Oxo and Sharwood’s.

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Mr Whitehouse said the company had been dealing with higher costs due to inflation, which continued to persist.

“Input cost inflation remains at elevated levels, and we continue to take action to offset this inflation through a range of measures,” he said.

“With strong trading momentum as we enter our final quarter of the year, and with more brand investment and new product launches to come, we are well on track to deliver on expectations for the full year.”

O2 Academy in Brixton staying shut for three months after fatal crush | Ents & Arts News

The O2 Academy in Brixton will remain shut for three more months after two people were killed in a crowd crush.

Owners Academy Music Group (AMG) said it had “reflected deeply” on the incident and had decided to stay closed regardless of an impending licensing decision by the local council.

Security guard Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, were fatally injured when ticketless fans tried to enter Nigerian artist Asake’s show at the south London venue on 15 December.

Rebecca Ikumelo, 33, of Newham. Pic: Met Police
Rebecca Ikumelo and (below) Gaby Hutchinson suffered fatal injuries
Gabrielle Hutchinson has been named as the second woman to have died after a crush at the Asake concert in Brixton on Thursday

Lambeth Council ordered the site to shut shortly afterwards, pending a hearing by a subcommittee on Monday.

Metropolitan Police had sought a longer licence suspension “to allow time to work with the venue to facilitate a safe reopening and to ensure appropriate safeguards, aimed at improving public safety, are in place”.

AMG has now taken the matter into its own hands, saying it “recognises the gravity” of what happened and offered “sincere condolences to the families of those who died”.

The three-month closure will give time for investigations into the incident to take place, AMG said, adding it was “committed to understanding what happened” and “providing full co-operation to the police”.

More on Brixton Concert Crush

“The company’s decision to close for this period will be the case whether or not the licence is suspended, but AMG agrees to the suspension as an enforceable measure,” a statement continued.

An online portal set up by the Met for people to submit details, photos, and videos of the incident remains open.

Some 4,000 people are thought to have witnessed the crush, which left eight attendees needing hospital treatment.

Nearly 50 shops shut down a day in 2022 – up nearly 50% on 2021 | Business News

Close to 50 shops shut down every day in 2022, more than at any other point for at least five years.

In a bruising year for retail, 17,145 shops closed last year – up by nearly 50% on 2021, when 11,449 shops shut.

Analysis by the Centre for Retail Research found about 47 sites shut up shop for the last time every day last year.

As shops shut, jobs went with them. More than 151,000 retail jobs were lost in the UK last year, including from online retailers – an increase of more than 45,000 on the year before.

The group’s survey found that a little over 5,500 of the shops went under, while more than 11,600 of them were closed as a larger chain decided to cut its costs.

The Centre for Retail Research’s director, Professor Joshua Bamfield, said: “Rather than company failure, rationalisation now seems to be the main driver for closures as retailers continue to reduce their cost base at pace.”

He said the trend was likely to continue this year, but added that a few “big hitters” could also go under.

The researchers found there had been a 56% drop in shops being closed because larger retailers – with 10 or more sites – went out of business.

They said that many of the chains that were going to fail already had in recent years. But Joules, McColl’s and TM Lewin among others still went under.

The real estate adviser Altus Group said that retailers and landlords would have to pay close to £1.1bn from April 1 to cover the business rates on empty sites. These are sites that have been empty for three months.

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Robert Hayton, UK president at Altus Group, said: “Rate-free periods need to be urgently extended to reflect the time that it actually takes to re-let vacant properties.

“The current woes facings the retail sector, driven by the war in Ukraine, mean that empty rates are ripe for modernisation.”

Just Stop Oil: 58 people charged over protests which shut down parts of M25 | UK News

A total of 58 people have been charged after Just Stop Oil staged four days of protests on the M25, shutting down parts of Britain’s busiest motorway.

The Metropolitan Police said it had arrested 63 suspects during a “major operation to tackle serious disruption”.

Eleven people charged were due to appear in various courts on Friday – on the same day the climate activist organisation announced it would pause protests on the M25.

The group – whose members climbed overhead gantries on the motorway – said in a statement: “From today, Just Stop Oil will halt its campaign of civil resistance on the M25.

“We are giving time to those in government who are in touch with reality to consider their responsibilities to this country at this time.

“We ask that the prime minister consider his statement at COP27, where he spoke of the catastrophic threat posed by the ravages of global heating, the 33 million people displaced by floods in Pakistan, and the moral and economic imperative to honour our pledges.”

But they warned: “The supporters of Just Stop Oil (JSO) are now the people upholding law and order and protecting civil society.

“Under British law, people in this country have a right to cause disruption to prevent greater harm – we will not stand by.”

Handout photo issued by Just Stop Oil of an activist on a overhead gantry on the M25. Just Stop Oil said around 10 of its supporters climbed onto overhead gantries in "multiple locations" on the M25 from 6.30am on Wednesday, in what is the third consecutive day of protests on the UK's busiest motorway. Issue date: Wednesday November 9, 2022.
A Just Stop Oil activist seen on an overhead gantry on the M25.

The 11 people charged include David Misfud, 46, of Totnes, Devon, who was due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London.

Nicholas Onley, 60, of Tottenham, north London and Thomas Gardener, 40, of Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, were due to face magistrates in Reading.

Meanwhile, Diana Hekt, 68, of Kirklees, Huddersfield, and Tez Burns, 34, of Swansea, were due to appear at Brighton Magistrates’ Court.

Mair Bain, 35, of Derby; Phoebe Plummer, 21, of Clapham, southwest London; David Mann, 50, of Ipswich; Cressida Gethian, 20, of Ledbury, Herefordshire; Christopher Ford, 35, of Cambridge, and Quido Wieswer, 18, from Pentonville, north London, were all set to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

Pic: Just Stop Oil
Pic: Just Stop Oil

Injured police officer now recovering

An Essex Police motorcyclist who was injured during a collision with two lorries as the protests unfolded on Wednesday is now recovering and has thanked the public for their concern.

The officer, who has asked to remain anonymous, was hurt during a rolling roadblock after being thrown from his motorcycle.

The married father-of-two is a highly experienced officer who was equipped with the force’s latest motorcycle, including protective clothing and built-in airbags.

He has been part of the Essex Police Road Policing Unit for more than 20 years after signing up in 2001.

The incident comes as a senior police chief warned it is “only a matter of time” before someone is killed during the demonstrations.

But JSO activist Indigo Rumbelow, during a fiery exchange with Sky News’ Mark Austin on Thursday, insisted protests should continue and defended the M25 disruption.

She described the situation as “incredibly grave” and warned: “Protests will have to continue because, at the moment, I just do not know what else we’re going to do.”

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Protester Indigo Rumbelow is challenged by Sky’s Mark Austin

Chief Supt Simon Anslow, the senior officer leading operations on the Essex section of the M25, thanked motorists for their patience and support to officers.

Police to be given more powers to stop protests

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier this week said ministers are “moving ahead” with legislation to give police more powers to stop protests.

His remarks were in response to Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge in Surrey, Ben Spencer, telling the Commons how the M25 protests had caused “disruption and misery” to constituents, including problems accessing the local hospital.

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Video reveals tailbacks caused by M25 protests

JSO has staged 32 days of disruption from the end of September and throughout October, leading to 677 arrests and 111 people being charged.

Officers worked a total of 9,438 extra shifts to tackle the crisis. JSO said its supporters have been arrested more than 2,000 times since beginning its campaign in April.