Ministers urged to save West Midlands car industry
The Government has been urged to pump cash into firms including Jaguar Land Rover in a bid to save the West Midlands car industry from the ravages of the coronavirus crisis.
Tory politicians, including West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, said the region's recovery from the impact of the pandemic was largely dependent on getting the automotive industry "back up to speed".
They have written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma calling for "bold and decisive" support – including cash for key businesses such as JLR.
It comes after reports suggested JLR, which has an engine manufacturing plant at the i54 Business Park, had asked for £1 billion Government support package amid declining car sales across the sector.
The letter also calls for car dealerships to be reopened as soon as possible, and for the UK's first 'gigafactory' to be built in the region to boost jobs.
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 says "targeted financial support" for firms such as JLR would protect their future by ensuring investment plans were not scrapped or delayed, as well as securing jobs.
It added that reopening car showrooms urgently would send a clear message that the car industry was back in business.
Locating the proposed 'gigafactory' – where electric battery cells will be made – in the West Midlands would consolidate the region as the home of the UK automotive sector, it said.
The letter also recalls the impact of the closure of Rover, which it says left the West Midlands economy "reeling".
"The loss of the factory at Longbridge saw 6,000 jobs directly lost and another 25,000 in the supply chain and supporting sectors," it said.
"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."
The letter was signed by Tory council leaders including Walsall Council's Mike Bird and Dudley Council's Patrick Harley.
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