A MISSILE manufacturer has announced 170 redundancies at its Bolton factory.

Staff at Lostock-based MBDA UK were told of the cuts yesterday morning after company chiefs revealed operations were being scaled down.

Bolton MP Ruth Kelly was meeting with bosses today to discuss the cuts because the factory falls within her constituency.

She said: "This is very disappointing news for the dedicated workers at MBDA Lostock.

"I will be discussing the implications and the way forward with both unions and management. This is clearly a very worrying time."

MBDA chiefs say the cuts are part of a limited redundancy programme that will see 250 jobs go across its UK operations over the next 15 months. Other sites affected are in Stevenage and Bristol.

Staff at the plant are highly skilled in the production of complex electronic guidance systems for missiles. A decision is yet to be made on who will go from the 400-strong workforce.

Steve Wadey, MBDA managing director, said: "The losses are predominantly in our manufacturing and customer support and services parts of the business. We have worked very hard over the past 18 months to find appropriate additional work for our business and it is always regrettable when redundancies become necessary.

"This decision has not been taken lightly but, having considered all the other options available, these actions are necessary to safeguard the competitive position and the medium to long-term future of our business."

Mr Wadey said the cuts were the result of a number of major contracts ending, in conjunction with a reduction in the amount of work being contracted in.

Michael Frattasi, aged 54, from Clifton, has been a maintenance fitter with the company for 38 years.

He said: "We knew it was coming, we just didn't know whether it would hit us before Christmas. Orders were low and there were projects that never materialised.

"You put two and two together and realise that jobs are going to go, but it will take time to sink in."

Mike Foster, aged 54, of Heaton, who has worked as an engineer for the company for 38 years, said: "Everyone was aware that the company was going through a slow period. Most people realised that the losses would come, but the surprise is the number of jobs going.

"The company executives have been speaking to individuals and assuring them, but it's difficult to tell who is most at risk from the information we've been given."

Jane Purdum, aged 34, from Adlington, is a project manager and has been with the company for 18 years. Her husband, David, has worked in procurement at the company for 21 years.

She said: "There's been a very flat atmosphere since we found out. It's been a long time since there were redundancies within the company. We're under the impression that the effect will be felt across the whole site, but I'm fairly hopeful that promises of redeployment will be kept."

Cllr Akhtar Zaman, Bolton Council's executive member for regeneration, said: "This is very sad news. It is important we move quickly to make sure people are out of work for as little time as possible.

"We have an economic development section within the council, and I will instruct officers to contact the company and to bring JobcentrePlus and other agencies into play to help those affected."

Paul Norris, head of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce in Bolton, said: "These jobs are highly skilled, top-end jobs that are already at a premium in this area."