MID and East Antrim’s collective response to Wrightbus entering into administration has been heralded as an example of excellence in public sector leadership, a press release from the local council says.
Last September, some 1,200 workers were made redundant when the world-renowned coachbuilder entered administration.
As news broke of the Wrightbus announcement, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council immediately activated its Rapid Redundancy Response Programme, set up following the closure of Michelin in the area, and led by councillors and Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy.
The Council initiated a Northern Ireland-wide campaign along with central government and business leaders from throughout the region, who rallied behind the workers and their families to keep the factory site open and save as many jobs as possible.
The Council press release says the council ‘maximised its role as the local authority to support the brokering of a deal for a new buyer, ensuring our area’s proud manufacturing legacy and heritage was protected, as well as safeguarding the livelihoods of hundreds of our citizens’.
Since it was taken over, Wrightbus has been on a recruitment drive and the factory now employs 400 people.
The partnership response to the Wrightbus announcement, and subsequent economic fightback plans, was recognised with a Gold iESE Award at a ceremony in Westminster in London.
Mid and East Antrim was recognised in the ‘Asset and Management Regeneration’ category, which celebrates innovative local-led projects that use assets to deliver proven benefits to communities.
Alderman Audrey Wales MBE collected the award, along with Ms Donaghy, on behalf of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
She said: “The Wrightbus news sent shockwaves throughout our borough.
“Within hours, partners within the Manufacturing Task Force were working closely with Council, maximising the group’s extensive business network during the economic crisis.
“Direct engagement took place between Council regarding Wrightbus at the highest levels of the UK government, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as well as the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and his Permanent Secretaries.
“The collective response on the ground was immediate and the outpouring of support and mobilisation of vital services in response to the emergency was proof of how strong local and central government can be when they work together.”
Cllr Gregg McKeen, Chair of Council’s Borough Growth Committee, said: “It has been an extremely challenging time for all those affected, but the response since then has given us real hope for the future of the Wrightbus firm.
“I commend the efforts and commitment of those who brokered a deal which will ensure our area’s proud manufacturing legacy and heritage has been protected.
“This has been a superb team effort, with our Chief Executive Anne Donaghy working shoulder to shoulder with business leaders and our partners in central government to secure the future of this giant of manufacturing giant in Mid and East Antrim.”
This year iESE celebrated 11 years of the Public Sector Transformation Awards, with local authorities across the UK nominated for excellent service.
The awards ceremony is sponsored so that no public money is spent on the event and each winner is provided with free places in recognition of their efforts in improving their local areas.
Created by local authorities as a shared resource to transform public services and retain experience within the sector, iESE has supported a wide range of transformations throughout the UK.
iESE is led by local authority councillors elected by iESE member councils.