150 axed as firm shuts

ONE hundred and fifty jobs will be axed at a hi-tech Sheffield foundry which has been put out of business by massive electricity price rises.

Laycast, on Sheffield Road, Woodhouse Mill, will close in November, eight years after the completion of a multi-million pound investment in equipment which created one of the most advanced foundries in Europe.

"The main reason for the closure is a significant increase in electricity costs from October," said managing director Mel Spears.

The 17 million-a-year turnover business melts iron to produce castings for the automotive industry and faces a 65 per cent increase in energy prices which would add 1 million to its annual costs.

"The company has been losing money for a number of years and the electricity increase is the final straw," said Mr Spears.

"We have been in consultations since the middle of June with employees and customers.

"We told them that if we couldn't get a price increase or find a buyer for the company we would have to close it in the fourth quarter of this year.

"The UK foundry industry and anybody who melts metals by electricity is being hammered by the price increases."

Mr Spears said an agreement on a redundancy package has been signed with engineering unions representing the firm's employees.

Sheffield Attercliffe MP Clive Betts said in the past he had helped other companies work with government departments to make energy efficient savings.

He said: "I am well aware that many firms, particularly those in the steel and engineering industry, have to cope with significant energy price increases.

"The Government is trying to stimulate extra flows of gas and oil from Africa and Europe and is ensuring new pipelines are being built and that's starting to come through so hopefully that will have a positive impact on prices in future.

"The real problem is a worldwide increase in oil and gas prices and nobody can escape that."

Laycast used to be part of Laycock Engineering, the Sheffield group which began life in 1880, making equipment for railway rolling stock.

The company became part of engineering giant GKN, but, within a decade of celebrating its centenary, it was sold off to LuK, the German automotive clutch manufacturer. LuK sold Laycast to another German company, Gebrder Gienanth, in 1992 and, five years later, it moved to Woodhouse Mill as part of a 15 million investment programme, which created a leading edge, computer controlled foundry,

Its biggest customer continues to be LuK's plants in Sheffield and Germany and the former site on Little London Road is now the site of the Broadfield business park.