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Unions furious at possible Royal Mint sell off
by Martin Shipton

INDICATIONS that the Government is planning to privatise the Royal Mint have provoked an angry reaction from unions.

Buried in the Pre-Budget Report published on Monday was a sentence saying there was an intention to “explore the potential benefits of alternative future models for the Royal Mint”.

It is understood the UK Government may put the Royal Mint at Llantrisant up for sale as part of a programme to boost revenue in the wake of the global financial crisis. Other public sector agencies like the Met Office could also be privatised.

Peter Harris, national officer of the PCS union, said: “The announcement came as a complete shock to the trade unions at the Royal Mint, as only last week we met with the senior management team to discuss the excellent progress made in the last year and their future plans to sustain recent improvements and profitability. Selling the Mint was not on the agenda.

“Previous reviews by the Government have always come out against the privatisation of the Royal Mint. They seem desperate to make so-called efficiency savings but this really is selling off the 800-year-old family silver.

“The staff have a strong record in delivering an important and vital service with efficiency and professionalism. All financial targets set by the Government have been exceeded and last year they made a profit of nearly £10m.

“This is not the time to be jeopardising a successful example of public sector provision and transferring dedicated public servants into the private sector. We cannot let the Government sell off an important public asset at some knock-down price. The market value now would be well below its true value.”

Gareth Howells, of the Prospect union, said: “Any attempt to sell off the Royal Mint would be economic madness. In the current climate the market value of this public asset will be way below its real value. It would be a case of sell in haste, repent at leisure.

“The Government will face the justifiable anger of taxpayers if they see this national asset being sold at a bargain basement, credit crunch price. Even Santa Claus would flinch at such a giveaway.

“It should be pointed out that any prospective purchaser would almost certainly have to raise capital from commercial banks to finance the deal – banks which are only being kept in operation by virtue of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. So the Government would be lending out money for commercial buyers to snap up one of its assets at a rock bottom price. How could such a subsidy be said to benefit the taxpayer or the Welsh economy?”

But Royal Mint chief executive Andrew Stafford said: “We welcome the announcement of a study to explore alternative business models for the Royal Mint. We have a strong business and have worked hard to put in place the building blocks for a successful future. We believe we have the right strategy in place to enable the Royal Mint to continue to flourish and expect the implementation of that strategy to be made easier by any change in our business model.”

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