British Embassy in Warsaw probes Twinings grant

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

British Embassy in Warsaw probes Twinings grant
The British Embassy in Warsaw is probing the legality of an EU funding award for Twinings’ new Polish factory.

Workers at factories in Andover (129) and North Shields (260) will lose their jobs through phased redundancies from February 2011 as a result of the move, and union bosses are angry that staff may be funding their own job losses as UK/EU taxpayers.

Derek Kotz from Andover TUC showed a letter he had written to Europe minister David Lidington in early July, urging him to investigate concerns that Twinings was not misusing a multi-million euro funding award to relocate manufacturing to Poland.

This is in light of Article 57 of the EC Structural Funds Regulation, which expressly forbids giving ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) monies to firms that are transferring production within the EU.

Embassy seeking details

Replying to Kotz on August 12, a Department of Business, Industry & Skills (BIS) spokeswoman wrote:

“We would expect the Polish authorities to fully abide by Article 57 of the Structural Funds Regulation…and to the terms of their ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) Operational Programmes as agreed with the European Commission.

“Officials at the British Embassy in Warsaw are seeking details from the relevant Polish authorities.”

As revealed in mid-July, the EU Commission wrote to Polish authorities​ in late May asking them to provide “formal guarantees”​ that Twinings’ Polish subsidiary was not using EU funds for relocation to a new €45m (£37.7m) factory in Swardedz.

Responding to this news, a Twinings spokeswoman said: "It is important to emphasise that our business case for setting up a new factory in Poland was not based on receiving any external funding.

"Following the selection of a suitable location for the factory in Swarzedz, Poznan, we applied, through our legal entity in Poland, to the Polish Ministry for a grant under the Operational Programme, Innovative Economy, measure 4.5.1 (OPIE).​"

No formal agreement

She said Twinings applied because it considered that its business plans satisfied the relevant criteria, although the decision on eligibility was determined by the Polish authorities.

“The initial confirmation of the OPIE grant was received on 1st April 2010; however, no formal agreement has been finalised,"​ she added.

'Insane' decision

Reflecting on the TUC’s current position, Kotz said last Friday: “The full contract for the funding award hasn’t been signed yet, but that’s hardly surprising given the embassy and Commission involvement.

“Twinings need to be made aware that the issue won’t simply go away. We won’t rest until they effectively reverse this insane decision to shift production out to Poland.”

Evidence that Twinings’ Polish subsidiary is receiving EU cash to fund its new facility in Swarzedz first appeared in a written reply from the Commission to a letter sent by former Southeast England MEP Caroline Lucas.

For more details of the EC’s response, click here​.

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