Lib Dem concern over post-pandemic industrial prospects

Call for Midlands Manufacturing Task Force after Rolls Royce job cuts.

A Midlands Manufacturing Task Force should be set up to limit further damage to the sector from coronavirus-related disruption and job cuts, says a new Liberal Democrat campaign group covering the East and West Midlands.

The Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England say national, regional and local government and business needs to come together to help the manufacturing sector weather the devastating economic impact of coronavirus, along the lines of the successful MG Rover task force set up in 2005.

The move comes as fears grow for thousands more jobs in the engineering supply chain across the east and west Midlands after Rolls Royce announced 9,000 job losses.

A group spokesman said, “Yesterday came the terrible announcement that Rolls-Royce has been forced to shed 9,000 jobs across the business due to a downturn in the aviation industry caused by the coronavirus. The Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England group would like to send our sympathies to those affected. Rolls-Royce employs not only people in Derby and the surrounding area but across the entire Midlands which is estimated to account for 3% of global aerospace output.

“The Midlands is a unique resource as the nation’s manufacturing heartlands due to our production sector accounting for over 30% of our GVA with 16% of this contributed from our manufacturing powerhouses. The Rolls-Royce announcement will have ramifications across the Midlands, through our sophisticated just in time local supply chains providing best in class products to contractors feeding into OEMs including Rolls-Royce. We must act quickly to secure jobs and talent, or risk wider scale redundancies linked to Covid-19 and falling global demand.

“That’s why today, we are calling for the creation of a Midlands-wide Manufacturing Task Force, a partnership of national, regional and local government with input from business leaders, LEPs and unions to find a consensus route to support our regional economy through action and delivery at this extremely challenging period.”

Vice-Chair of the Heart of England Lib Dem group, Cllr Beverley Nielsen, former Director of CBI West Midlands and West Midlands Mayoral candidate, said: “Setting up a Midlands Task Force including a Midlands Talent Retention Scheme would really help for many families and businesses across the Midlands.

“We have hard-earned experience to draw on from the results delivered through the MG Rover Task Force which dealt with over 14,500 job losses in 2005 when that plant closed. The MG Rover Task Force was successfully able to bring together cross-government working across government boundaries and tiers to implement a policy response tailored to people’s needs. We need this sort of approach again.

“We urgently need to bring together the leadership, vision, partnership-working and community engagement. This must set about galvanising the necessary delivery of high quality services in support of the Rolls-Royce workers and supply chain.”