Comments from Longbridge MP on MG Rover: one year on



“The ending of production at Longbridge, felt like a bereavement, and it takes time to recover from that. And people have been through the roller coaster of emotions that go with bereavement. Shock, grief, anger, denial and then a determination to face a changed future. The closure, after 99 years of car manufacturing, of a factory which has been such an integral part of South West Birmingham, was always going to have a tremendous impact on the lives of both those who worked there, as well as those who simply lived or worked nearby. This was nor simply a car plant. It was part of the identity of the area. Everyone knows someone or has had a relative who has worked at “the Austin.”


“There have been many positives to come out of this as well. The coordinated work of the agencies involved in the MG Rover Task Force has been invaluable. When 6,000 people in one area lose their jobs simultaneously, the challenges of even sorting out redundancy and benefit payments are huge but the speed with which this was done in the days and weeks following closure was hugely impressive. There has been an ongoing effort to advise former employees on re-training and job searching. To date more than 4,000 workers are back in employment. Many have taken training courses and some have used the opportunity to set up their own businesses. Though nobody would have chosen it to happen in this way, some MG Rover workers have found the change of career path hugely rewarding. There is one who I know well who has moved into youth work. The money isn’t anything like as good as he got at MG Rover. But he has discovered that, underneath, it is what he always wanted to do.
“But for many, life remains tough. Many are on dramatically lower wages now and are struggling to pay mortgages taken out on the assumption that they had a well paid and secure job for the future.
“Nearly two thousand people are still without work. Many older workers have found things particularly difficult. Often they are also the ones who live in and around the Longbridge area itself.
“That is why I am pleased the Task Force has taken up my proposal to create a new programme of advice and support, targeted on the South West Birmingham to help identify barriers to employment and to assist with training and job search. This must go into effect as quickly as possible and be accessible to all those in the area who face long term unemployment, not simply those who worked at MG Rover.”

“The people working for Job Centre Plus, the Learning and Skills Council, Local colleges, the City Council, the department of Trade and Industry, HM Customs and Revenues and all the other agencies involved in the Task Force have put a lot of effort into working together and breaking down the barriers between departments to provide a seamless service following MG Rover’s collapse.
“But it is clear that the rules and regulations under which different departments operate can still get in the way of helping people back into work and training. All too often the rules are too complex and there are particular problems with Department of Work and Pension Rules which can lead to many people taking up training courses having their benefits cut. We should not be encouraging people to train on one hand and then deny them support on the other. This is something that can affect older workers with families and young people alike. The Task Force has done its best to overcome these problems but they are things that need to be addressed for the longer term.
“If Rover had closed in 2000, the job losses across the region would have undoubtedly been much greater. The work done between 2000 and 2005 by Accelerate and other bodies such as Advantage West Midlands and the Manufacturing Advisory Service in encouraging the supply base to diversify played an essential role in ensuring that company closures and redundancies were kept to a minimum. Back in 2000, there was only one option left on the table. Alchemy pulled out of its negotiations with BMW in April, leaving only the Phoenix deal or closure for Longbridge. Those five years have proved to be vital in preparing the region to cope without Rover.

“I welcome the commitment that Nanjing has made to producing MGs at Longbridge in the future and we should all work to support them. But this is not “Rover’s Return”. The scale and scope of any car production in the future will be much less than in the past and far fewer people will be employed in any future MG operation.

“Car making can be a valuable part of the area’s future but none of us should allow the future of South West Birmingham to become dependent on one industry or one company in the future. “The Austin” will always be a proud part of this area’s heritage but we have to turn the page and move on.

“We need a thorough regeneration programme for the Longbridge area and south west Birmingham as a whole to boost investment and opportunities for local people.

“The technology park planned for the site must be accelerated and a new transport hub created at Longbridge, both to improve public transport for local people and to provide easy access to the Motorway network for businesses moving into the area. Local authorities, the Government, the Regional Development Agency, the new owners of the Site, St Modwens, and the private sector as a whole all have key roles to play in making this happen.
“We also need to make sure that the next generation- those now at school in South West Birmingham- have the skills and ambition to take up the challenges of the future. I am excited by the proposal to construct a new 14-19 vocational centre on the site in conjunction with local schools and colleges. That will be a real demonstration to investors that the most valuable asset this area has to offer is the skills and commitment of its people.”

Recent Posts

Richard Burden

Avatar photo

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.

Get in touch

You can reach me by email at or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.