FORMER prime minister Gordon Brown has called on the UK and Scottish governments to come together and “pool resources” to save two factories which employ disabled people.
Mr Brown is hoping a meeting can be set up with UK Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Scottish Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing.
The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP has said he found two potential buyers for the Remploy factories in Leven and Cowdenbeath but that ministers need to first step in and bail them out.
Under government plans, the sites, where staff make lifejackets, are to close as ministers axe factories which employ disabled workers.
Mr Brown has argued that despite heavy losses and the prospect of production moving to Asia, it would be better to try to save them while efforts are made to organise a private takeover.
Fixed costs are high, meaning the factories are operating at a loss even after revenues from producing the lifejackets are taken into account, he said.
Mr Brown raised the plight of the factories in a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Now he and fellow Fife MPs Thomas Docherty and Lindsay Roy want to set up a tripartite meeting, involving the governments and Fife Council.
The factories’ losses, which they say have fallen to £80,000 this year from £1.6 million two years ago, could be wiped out if transitional support is provided, the three Labour MPs argue.
Mr Brown said: “We need the three parties who can help fund a rescue to come together to pool their commitments and resources so that the UK Government raises its current offer of £6,400 per disabled employee over three years and the Scottish Government raises its 18-month maximum of £5,000 per disabled worker.
“Even taken together, these offers are not enough to wipe out the annual deficits overnight. The Fife factories can be viable in a short period but they need more time.”
When Mr Brown raised the issue in the Commons on Tuesday it was the first time he had spoken there for more than a year.
During the debate Work and Pensions Minister Esther McVey said she would be prepared to meet with Mr Brown, the Scottish Government and officials from Fife council when she travels to Scotland next month.
The Government has embarked on the Remploy programme on the advice of disability charities and that the subsidy on offer is more than others, she said.
“We are seeking viable bids for business wherever possible and getting the best offers we can to come forward. That is what it is about, supporting disabled people.
“We have given government subsidy in the past. As I said, the past modernisation plan failed: £555 million was put in to that over a period of time and that did not work. Therefore, we have got to look at what is feasible, what is viable and how we are moving forward.”