By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
More than 2,000 people affected by the collapse of retailer Wilko will be offered further support from the county council in seeking alternative employment.
Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council has unanimously vowed to offer help and guidance to Wilko employees affected by the company’s demise.
Fifteen high street stores across the city and county will have closed within the next fortnight while about 2,000 jobs have also been lost at the company’s Worksop headquarters.
The collapse has previously been described as “like a pit closure” for the north Nottinghamshire district with office, distribution and retail jobs lost.
Now the county council has backed cross-party plans to offer further job support to all people in the county affected by the company’s closure.
The motion – lodged by Labour Group leader Cllr Kate Foale – asked the chamber to find support within the authority for some of the retailer’s former staff.
It was amended by the ruling Tories to outline support already offered to the affected employees before being given cross-party unanimous support.
The Independent Alliance then offered another amendment ensuring former Wilko employees are offered connections with employers who are “seeking candidates with similar skillsets”.
During the meeting, Cllr Foale said: “It’s clear the closure of Wilko stores is a huge blow to our county.
“So many of our communities will be affected. For anyone who’s been into Wilko since the announcement, it’s been so, so sad.
“Some staff have worked there for years and working there for them felt like a family. They’ve lost their jobs at short notice and these are people who care about the communities they serve.
“We really need to … dig deep into our resources and use our position as a major employer to create training opportunities.”
Cllr Keith Girling (Con), who proposed the Conservatives’ amendment, added: “We are connected with Wilko staff personally … and we are also available to take down people’s details if they have a specific role they are interested in.
“We’ve taken steps to engage with people on social media and that will continue.”
And Cllr Helen-Ann Smith (Ash Ind), who seconded the Independent Alliance amendment, said: “The closure of Wilko has left a huge gap on our high streets and sent shockwaves through Nottinghamshire.
“We need to do everything possible to help ex-workers from Wilko.”
Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) outlined at the start of this week when the final four Wilko stores across the city and county will close.
The stores in Bulwell and Nottingham city centre will shut on Thursday, October 5, with Arnold and Hucknall’s stores to close on Sunday, October 8.
They were the remaining units to shut after PwC previously confirmed dates for the remaining 11 stores – some of which have already shut.
Giltbrook’s store was among 37 to close nationally on Monday (September 25), with 37 more – including Newark, Sutton-in-Ashfield and Worksop – closing on Wednesday (September 27).
A further 37 will close on Friday, September 29, including the units in Mansfield and Retford.
These follow the stores in Clifton, Kimberley and Sherwood closing on September 19 and the Wilko units in Beeston and Carlton shutting on September 21.
Some local jobs may be saved after rival retailer Poundland agreed to buy 71 Wilko retail units nationally – including the units in Beeston, Kimberley and Worksop.
All three stores will become Poundland units in the coming weeks and union GMB pledged to take steps to ensure affected staff at these stores are prioritised.
Retailer B&M has also agreed to buy 51 Wilko stores, though the locations of those units have not yet been confirmed.