GlaxoSmithKline is trimming its UK workforce by around 320 under a shake-up of its manufacturing network in the country, in a move designed to boost efficacy and competitiveness.

Under fresh direction from new chief executive Emma Walmsley, the drugs giant intends to sell its Horlicks brand of drinks in the UK and thus close the site in Slough where they are produced, and also outsource some manufacturing activity at its site in Worthing, West Sussex.

In addition, plans to build a £350-million biopharmaceutical facility in Ulverston have now been shelved, as the extra capacity is “no longer needed”, which will come as a real blow given that the move was to bring up to 1,000 jobs to the region.

Local councillor Graham Vincent expressed shock and disappointment at the decision.

“We have been in meetings and discussions with GSK in the last few weeks about unrelated matters and there was no suggestion that this announcement was on the horizon.

“We have been told by the management at GSK in Ulverston that the site remains very profitable and, should one of the future options be to look at selling the Ulverston operation, that it would be an attractive proposition for any potential purchaser.”

On the plus side, an investment of more than £140 million between now and 2020 has been earmarked for facilities in Ware, Hertfordshire, Barnard Castle, Co Durham and Montrose, Scotland, to support expansion of manufacturing for respiratory and HIV medicines.

GSK also unveiled plans for a strategic review of its cephalosporins antibiotics business, with an option to sell the business including the associated manufacturing facilities, while, within its consumer healthcare business, divestment of the MaxiNutrition brand and other smaller non-core nutrition brands is being considered.

The company, which exports around 80 percent of its UK-manufactured products, insists that the changes are not related to Brexit.

“We are continuing to invest in science and our core businesses in the UK and we continue to see the UK as an attractive place for the life sciences industry,” said Philip Thomson, president of Global Affairs at GSK.