The West Midlands’ automotive industry needs ‘bold and decisive’ support from the Government as it exits the COVID-19 crisis – that is the message from political leaders across the region to Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
In a letter signed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Conservative leaders from Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, the minister is urged to deliver a comprehensive plan to protect tens of thousands of automotive jobs and help the vital sector recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Street said: “The success of the automotive industry is crucial to the economic health of the West Midlands – it provides thousands of high-quality jobs in manufacturing, engineering, research and development, design and retail as well as supporting a hugely important supply chain.
“The livelihoods of so many West Midlands people are bound up with the automotive sector, which in recent years has shown real innovation and ambition as it faces global changes such as electrification. There has been significant investment made by the Government and the carmakers, resulting in real progress for the sector – but we cannot allow this to be put at risk.
“As we restart the economy after the coronavirus crisis, we believe comprehensive plans are needed to help the car industry get back up to full speed.”
The letter to Mr Sharma calls for:
Targeted financial support for key businesses in the sector, exemplified by JLR as the largest, to protect their viability, sustain investment plans in plants (e.g. the planned investment in Castle Bromwich to produce the first electric Jaguar) and secure jobs.
Work with the sector to ensure that Government schemes are tailored to their needs, e.g. that the Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) scheme evolves to enable part-time and shift working that is essential to car plants’ operation.
Copy the Government’s drive to restart the housing market by re-opening car showrooms urgently and sending a clear message that the car industry is back in business.
Consolidate the West Midlands as the home of Britain’s automotive sector by bringing the UK’s first “Gigafactory” to our region, for large-scale manufacture of electric battery cells.
Continue to support the drive for a greener, cleaner automotive future through plans like the recently announced additional faster electric charging points nationwide.
As well as Mr Street, the letter to Mr Sharma is signed by the council leaders of Dudley, Solihull and Walsall, and the Conservative group leaders of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton.
The letter also recalls the impact of the closure of Rover, warning it left the West Midlands economy ‘reeling’.
The letter adds: “The loss of the factory at Longbridge saw 6,000 jobs directly lost and another 25,000 in the supply chain and supporting sectors.
“This event was a brutal reminder of the importance of the automotive industry to the West Midlands and the impact upon the wider economy when it is imperilled.”
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