Ford closure – sad day for van manufacturing in the UK


Today’s announcement by Ford is a real blow for Southampton and is a sad end to more than 100 years of Ford vehicle assembly in Britain.

Ford have been in Southampton since they acquired a factory in 1953, first used to assemble Spitfires in World War II, and it has been the home of the Transit van for the last 40 years.

I know from the experience of MG Rover in my own constituency, the impact a closure like this can have – on the employees, on their families, on businesses in the supply chain and on the wider local community. One of the main lessons we learnt was the value of setting up a taskforce to bring all the agencies together to tackle the effects of the closure.

My colleagues in Southampton, John Denham and Alan Whitehead, are absolutely right to call for a taskforce to be set up immediately. The government should get behind them without delay.

Ford have also announced that jobs will go in Dagenham with the closure of their stamping and tooling operations there. In total it is expected that 1,100 Ford jobs will be lost, with a further 300 positions affected. Addition jobs in Ford’s supply chain may also now be under threat.

One bit of good news on a bleak day is Ford’s announcement of investment in next-generation, low-carbon diesel engines to be developed in Dunton and produced in Dagenham.

Ford is still the second largest automotive employer in the country and it is important to recognise that Britain remains an important location for Ford manufacturing, particularly engine production, and as an R&D base.

How Ford employees in Southampton and Dagenham are feeling today will be mirrored by employees who also stand to lose their jobs in plants across Europe – including 4,300 people at the Genk plant in Belgium.

As motor industry expert Professor David Bailey of Coventry University has said today, underpinning Ford’s announcements is the European downturn. This absolutely underlines the vital need for a much more coordinated growth strategy for Europe. Britain has an important role to play in making that happen. The government must be much more pro-active, and a clearer growth strategy at home should be part of that.

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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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