ALL 20 staff at a Taunton plant hire firm are looking forward to an annual windfall after the owner turned it into an employee-owned business.

Eagle Plant company shareholder Michael Grimoldby ruled out selling up as he feared it could lead to some staff losing their jobs and ruin the company for workers and customers.

Instead a trust will be set up on behalf of staff, who will be eligible for a tax free bonus each year in the same way as John Lewis staff share some of the firm's profits and will have the opportunity to buy shares in their own right.

Mr Grimoldby said the future of Eagle Plant, which hires out plant and equipment ranging from a hammer drill to a 13-tonne excavator from its premises on Taunton's Galmington Trading Estate is directly linked to its staff.

"Given the circumstance, it would be usual for shareholders to follow the trade sale route with all the uncertainty and broken promises that can come from such a sale," he said.

"I wanted something better for the employees and Eagle Plant's loyal customers.

"There are other ways companies can be transferred without having to be sold with the possible loss of culture and jobs.

"This brings some stability and direction as to where the business will go in the coming years and gives the staff more responsibility."

Eagle Plant set up in Somerset in 1975 and today employs 20 staff in Taunton and a further 230 in a total of 26 depots trading from Lancashire to London and across to Cornwall.

Taunton manager Tom Richards said: "It's a tremendous honour what the boss is doing.

"It shows he appreciates his employees and is giving us the opportunity to gain from all the efforts he's put in throughout the years.

"It's an opportunity to earn a share of what he's done and allows us to take ownership and responsibility.

"I've worked for companies where the management are faceless, but here the boss supports everything we do and is involved in every step of the way."

Eagle Plant has a further total of 45 staff working at its branches in Chard and Ilminster.