Life After Longbridge Report


A new report looking at what has happened to the workers who lost their jobs following the collapse of MG Rover in 2005 was launched in Parliament today.

The collapse of MG Rover obviously had a huge impact on the Longbridge community. There was a significant danger that it would lead to large-scale, long-term unemployment in South West Birmingham. However, as this research shows, the way things came together in the immediate aftermath of the collapse along with the preparations put in place beforehand has helped to avoid this. Support mechanisms were in place, for example, to help workers find training and new jobs. Three years on and 90% of these workers have found new employment.

This is a real achievement. But it is also important to look at where the former employees are now. This research shows that two thirds of those who lost their jobs have suffered wage falls. Many have re-trained and found new employment in a different sector – but they have entered lower down the scale. Many have had to draw on their savings or take on debt. Nobody should underestimate the real impact this has on real people.

The experience of Longbridge shows the need for different Government and Local Authority departments to work together to overcome cliff edges in support and cooperate where their department areas conflict. In Longbridge national and local government, the private sector, regional stakeholders, trade unions, local training providers and commissioners and local staff in Job Centre Plus and other agencies all came together to respond to the collapse. This was vital and is a lesson which will be especially important in the current period of economic slowdown.

As well as learning the lessons of how to respond to the immediate aftermath of an incident like the closure of MG Rover, I think both this report and my own experience over the last three years underlines the importance of taking action to modernise, diversify and regenerate the economic base of South West Birmingham for the longer term. That may be more challenging in the current economic climate than in 2005, but it is no less important. There is still a great deal more that needs to be done in this area.

We also need to look at the lessons we can learn about how to involve the community itself in response to crises such as the MG Rover collapse. In Longbridge the community response, through organisations like the Rover Community Action Trust (RCAT), was instrumental in providing social and other support to MG Rover workers, their families and the wider local community. However it is clear that proper investment in voluntary and community sector infrastructure is also needed for sustainable community recovery to be achieved over the long term.

The report – ‘Life After Longbridge’: Three Years on. Pathways to Re-Employment in a Restructuring Economy’ by The Work Foundation and Birmingham Business School – is available online here.

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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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