Midlands manufacturing needs more support, says business chief

The Government been urged to increase support for Midlands manufacturing as the region looks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former Stourbridge MP Margot James, chair of WMG
Former Stourbridge MP Margot James, chair of WMG

The call came from former Stourbridge MP and Government Minister Margot James, who said the sector needed urgent financial backing because investment had floundered during the crisis.

Ms James, who stood down from Parliament ahead of last year's general election, addressed business leaders in her role as executive chair of Warwick Manufacturing Group.

She urged Ministers to boost the region's economic recovery by securing research and development jobs, and by delivering on its manifesto pledge to build a gigafactory – which West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is campaigning for.

Ms James said: "Manufacturing needs more backing. We are working with Andy Street to ask Government to support research and development jobs in manufacturing.

"If we can protect those jobs, we are protecting the future of a very important industry for the UK and for this region.

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"Sales are slowly recovering but investment hasn’t recovered and that is where government support is vitally needed.

"These are highly skilled jobs, which we will need to build our economic recovery in the short, medium and long term."

Ms James said Coventry and Warwickshire would be "the natural location" for the gigafactory, which would build batteries for electric car engines, including vehicles made at Jaguar Land Rover's i54 plant in Wolverhampton.

"Everyone in the region is behind this bid," she added.

Mr Street sees the gigafactory as a key element of the Government sticking to its “levelling-up agenda”.

He has called for £3.2 billion to get the gigafactory off the ground, along with investment in healthcare innovation and major infrastructure and transport investment.

Another potential site for the gigafactory is land near Tong, off Junction 3 of the M54, just eight miles away from the JLR plant.

Bradford Estates, which owns the land, says it has also been working with Shropshire Council on a submission to the Government as a potential site.

In July, Viscount Alexander Newport, managing director of Bradford Estates, said: “I can confirm we have been working with Shropshire Council on its submission to the Department for International Trade outlining our J3 development site as the potential location for a gigafactory.

“We were very pleased to be asked to help and believe that this type of project would be a huge shot in the arm for Shropshire and the wider local economy at a time when both county and country need to be focused on the post-Covid recovery."

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