FEARS FOR ELLESMERE PORT
The car industry is a vital component of North West manufacturing with thousands of jobs in the plants and supply chains for Ellesmere Port, Halewood, Crewe and elsewhere.
Brexit caused a cloud of uncertainty for the sector creating long term fears that plants could be relocated to the centre of the European Union.
The Vauxhall factory at Ellesmere Port has been a particular focus for concern. Ever since the takeover by the PSA Group, there have been worries about the long-term priorities of the French management.
New threats are now looming in the shape of the government’s 2030 ban on petrol engines and British capacity to produce batteries for the new electric cars.
The boss of the Vauxhall factory’s parent company, Carlos Taveres, has serious concerns about the petrol ban. He complained this week that if the rules under which the company operated were changed completely by the British government “there is a limit for the headwinds”. He went on to refer to “many barriers” to create value which could lead the company having to make “an ethically responsible decision”.
Read into that what you will, but it sounds to me like the combination of Brexit and the petrol ban is raising more and more questions in the minds of PSA’s management of the British government’s commitment to the car industry.
On that subject the former boss of Aston Martin, Andy Palmer, claimed this week that Britain was falling behind in the development of gigafactories to make electric batteries. The European Union is expected to build 11 plants by 2030. Britain needs four according to Mr Palmer who believes otherwise we could lose the entire British car industry to countries where the batteries are produced.
The government have a £500m Automotive Transformation Fund in place and speak of thousands of jobs being created as the car industry goes green.
Our exit from the EU and the transition to electric cars is making great demands on the car industry in the North West in particular. The government need to keep a close eye on developments.
FROM WHITHALL TO BRAMHALL.
The Northern Policy Foundation think tank was set up in the wake of the Tory breaching of the Red Wall at the General Election.
It may be a new organisation, but its first policy initiative is based on an old idea. They want 50,000 civil servants moved to the North West. Large parts of the Department of Health could go to Liverpool, Education to Lancaster, with Culture and Justice coming to Manchester. Ominously they say “core teams” would stay in Whitehall.
The government are committed to moving 22,000 civil servants out of London by 2030, but over the decades progress has been slow and has often meant that only back office functions have been moved.
This policy will only benefit the North when the “core teams” headed by top mandarins make the move and view the nation’s problems from a different point of view.