LABOUR’S West Midlands mayoral candidate has expressed his disappointment the region’s gigafactory earmarked for Coventry Airport was not mentioned in this week’s budget.
And Liam Byrne MP said ‘it could be game over for the UK’s and region’s car industry’ if the battery-making plant did not go ahead.
Even before launching his campaign, Mr Byrne has championed the West Midlands to become the ‘green workshop of the world’ by making things in the region which are needed across the globe to reach net carbon zero targets.
He said: “Batteries make up 40 per cent of electric cars and if we have to import them, there will be extra tariffs to pay which will make vehicles more expensive.
“Assembly of cars will move to where the batteries are made and there is nothing to stop automotive makers moving their operations to Europe.”
He added £1.75billion had already been invested in gigafactories across Europe with 16 of them either built already or in the process of being built.
“It will take five years for to build a gigafactory so we need to create one as soon as we can.”
During a Zoom round table event with Francis O’Grady from the TUC he reiterated that 140,000 jobs in the West Midlands depended on the automotive industry and a gigafactory was crucial to its future.
He said Coventry City Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the West Midlands Combined Authority had pulled out all the stops to find the cash and move the gigafactory plan forward.
“We need the green light to get shovels into the ground.”
Mr Byrne said he would be calling for urgent talks with the automotive industry, unions and councils to discuss the gigafactory.
“The window is closing to get the funding – we haven’t got long.”
Talking about other aspects of Chancellor’s Rishi Sunak’s budget Mr Byrne said, despite the West Midlands being the hardest hit by the pandemic, it was given much less in funding than was given to other regions, such as the North West, North East and even East Midlands which was given a freeport.
“The funding people in the West Midlands benefit from in this budget is less than £2 per week – that’s not even enough to get you a coffee at New Street Station.”
Speaking ahead of the election in May he added: “The West Midlands needs a mayor which stands up for it, not one which stands by.”
In his response to the budget Coun Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration at Coventry City Council, said: “The Government has continued to commit to green growth and sustainable job creation, by investing in green industries, stimulating the green industrial revolution, and becoming a scientific superpower.
“This welcome commitment builds on the announcements made in the Government’s 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.
“What is clear is that a gigafactory at Coventry Airport, which would deliver 4,000 new jobs directly, link with cutting edge research and development through local institutions, and support the electrification of the automotive industry, will be fundamental to the Government’s plan.
“We have already started work to bring forward a planning application for a gigafactory at Coventry Airport and are delivering for the West Midlands and UK PLC.
“In due course, we will be submitting a bid for the £500million which has been made available to deliver a gigafactory in the UK.”