Boris Johnson vows his government will 'do it all it can to help' after Wrightbus collapse
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to do all he can to help Ballymena bus manufacturers Wrightbus after the firm entered administration earlier this week.
The Prime Minister told the BBC that he believed part of the blame for the company's financial difficulties lay at the feet of current London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Wrigtbus constructed Routemaster buses for the city of London while Mr Johnson was mayor.
They were dubbed 'Boris buses' due to their close association with the Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson says he is "very sad" about what has happened to Wrightbus, but adds his government will "do what we can to help". He adds they have "big plans" for Harland and Wolff:— BBC News NI (@BBCNewsNI) September 26, 2019
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Mr Johnson said his successor was partly to blame for not continuing to engage Wrightbus to make the buses for the city.
A spokesperson for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan rejected Mr Johnson's claims.
“TfL purchased and completed their whole order of 1,000 New Routemasters from Wrightbus, and more recently ordered from them the world’s first hydrogen double-decker buses," the spokesperson said.
“This is part of our continuing work ensuring we have the cleanest and greenest buses in the capital to tackle London’s toxic air.”
Mr Johnson said that he was "disappointed" to see the firm go into administration and described it as a "fantastic business".
The Prime Minister said that his government had been working hard to save the firm and wanted to help sort out the problems at the Ballymena company.
He vowed his government would do what it can to help.
"We have been working on it the whole time," Mr Johnson said.
"You may know that the negotiations got very close, there was a particular problem that came up to do with the ownership of the land.
"We want to sort it out, we are going to do what we can to help."
Talks over a sale with at least two potential buyers finally collapsed on Friday.
In a statement a Wright family spokesperson addressed Mr Johnson's comment that there were issues around land ownership.
"A rental agreement for the sites was reached with one bidder, who then pulled out of the deal on Friday 20th," the statement said.
"A second bidder discussed purchasing the sites, but no formal letter of offer was made from that bidder.
"Any reports to the contrary are completely inaccurate."
Wrightbus entered administration on Tuesday, making 1200 staff redundant in an area that has been hit with a number of high profile business closures in recent years.
Deloitte has been appointed as administrators of the company, which has only retained around 50 staff.
Wrights Group ran out of money after a downturn in many of its key markets but has also faced criticism for giving away so much to charity.
The family is also believed to be standing by £15m in charitable donations made by its ultimate parent company Cornerstone Group over the last six years.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) official Owen Reidy said thousands of decent livelihoods were under threat.
“The company should have engaged with the union much earlier to explore alternatives," he said.
“Those alternatives are diminishing into fewer jobs of less quality and lower pay for such loyal staff.
“That loyalty deserves to be rewarded, especially as the Prime Minister has form with Wrightbus, and boosted his profile at photo-opportunities at the now shuttered Ballymena plant.
“It is essential that the state steps up if an alternative buyer cannot be found to save these jobs, or to utilise those skills in energy-efficient public transportation."
Belfast Telegraph Digital