THERE is seldom a good time to lose your job, but finding yourself out of work in the middle of a pandemic when unemployment is rising at an alarming rate just adds to the problem.

For that reason, my thoughts and best wishes go out to those workers who now find themselves jobless after Unilever permanently closed its Warrington factory last week after 130 years in business.

Of course, this comes as no surprise after the global manufacturer revealed its plans earlier this year to shut the historic Crosfields site – where Persil and Surf washing powders were made.

Unilever said a ‘sustained and irreversible decline in demand’ for washing powder was reason for closing the site.

Sales have fallen by 15 per cent in recent years, with customers increasingly using liquids and capsules for their laundry and the production line running at less than half of its capacity.

Interestingly as we head towards Brexit, Unilever intends to move most of its manufacturing of washing powders to a partner in Europe.

Of course, the demise of the Bank Quay site signals the loss of one more link to the town’s soap-making history.

That history dates as far back as the 1750s through firms such as Joseph Crosfield and Sons, which opened a small works at Bank Quay in 1814. Lever Brothers was first founded in Warrington 136 years ago, opening for business in 1884.

The site rapidly grew over the next century, with the Lever Brothers eventually buying out its neighbours in 1919.

Times change, and not always for the better.

And while I don’t seek to minimise the human cost of unemployment, maybe there will be the chance of an upside for the town.

Let’s face it, the Crosfields site is an absolute eyesore, made all the worse by the fact it’s located right next to Bank Quay station, one of the main gateways to the town.

Perhaps it’s time for the bulldozers to move in and provide us with something more in-keeping with the 21st century.

And yes, I know the site is shared with PQ Corporation, but I would question just how appropriate it is in this day and age to have industrial manufacturing so close to a town centre.

On a completely different topic, I have a question for you. Do you think local lockdowns work as a response to the pandemic?

I ask this after Warrington was placed in Tier 2, the so-called ‘High’ risk level, while neighbours Runcorn, Widnes and St Helens were put in Tier 3, ‘Very High’ risk level and at the time of writing the simmering row about putting Greater Manchester into Tier 3 was continuing.

I accept the picture is muddled and confused. Take Warrington, for example. The Tier 2 restrictions are actually less stringent than the locally-imposed restrictions they replaced.

Now, you can meet with five other people outside, including in private gardens, which you couldn’t previously do.

At the risk of pointing out the very obvious, things were always going to get worse when universities went back with millions of young people criss-crossing the county, despite the fact many universities were geared up for online-only teaching.

And of course, schools are open even in Tier 3 areas.

The evidence is irrefutable that schools have the potential to be problematic. Just look at what’s happened at Great Sankey High School where five out of the seven year groups were told to stay away, with almost 50 members of staff self-isolating at home.

Personally, I’m not convinced these local lockdowns are working and unless something drastic is done soon, we’re heading towards a pretty grim winter as the dark evenings approach.

And it also looks like Christmas is going to be pretty grim as well if you can’t have people from outside your bubble in your home. We’re already psychologically preparing ourselves to having our first Christmas on our own in 40 years.

Have we missed a trick here? Surely the best thing to do would have been a short, sharp ‘circuit breaker’ total lockdown to coincide with the October school half-term break.

That could have bought the time to fix the mess that Test and Trace has become and help to mitigate the risk of our hospitals becoming overrun with ICU beds swamped by Covid-19 patients.

There’s much talk of the effects on people’s mental health over the course of the pandemic and I wouldn’t seek to minimise that.

But I do think a clear plan, clearly communicated would go a long way towards easing people’s minds. And we just don’t seem to have one. What a shambles.