Originally published in Bromsgrove Standard – 30 September 2016

Many of you may have already heard the recent news that MG has announced they intend to cease assembling vehicles at their site in Longbridge. With the loss of around 25 local jobs, the overall scale of this is vastly different from when MG Rover stopped production over a decade ago – with the loss of over 6,500 jobs. But it still brought back memories and – whether you are one of 25 or one of 6,500 – losing your jobs is still losing your job. It did not have to be like this.

While I understand the business concerns that MG have surrounding costs of assembly at Longbridge, I am still hugely disappointed by this decision and believe it to be a premature one. Part of the problem here is that existing concerns over cost have undoubtedly been aggravated by problems with the strength of the pound and the cost of imports. As Professor David Bailey, of Aston University, has explained this week: “post-Brexit, the costs of import are much more expensive and there is uncertainty about the future. MG had hoped to use the UK as a launch pad for selling into Europe.”

More discussions should have taken place to explore alternatives and options before any decisions were finalised. In addition to discussing this with MG, I have been speaking with local Councillor and Birmingham Council Cabinet Member for Skills, Brett O’Reilly, as well as the Government. I know that they, like me, are willing to meet MG to discuss and explore options and help that may be available and I am sure the same will be true for the local authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership. That is why I have appealed to MG to delay this decision so that these detailed meetings can take place.

Let us remember though, that we are not talking about the end of the Shanghai Auto/MG operation at Longbridge though. The Shanghai Automotive Technical Centre will remain at Longbridge, with between 300 and 400 skilled engineers and others working there. In addition to this vital Research and Development operation, there will also be MG sales, marketing and after-sales staff working at the plant. We can build on that, but it is another reason why I think this announcement is premature as we haven’t been able to work with MG to explore all the options.

It is vital that MG get around the table with myself, government, LEP and Birmingham City council to try to find a solution. The voice of employees through their trade unions also needs to be heard. We need to do this in the interests of constituents, local business, the community and the broader automotive industry. While we may not be able to achieve the ideal outcome, we may be able to achieve a better one if all those involved work together to find constructive solutions.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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