Billions of government cash needed to save economy

The M6 motorway in Birmingham Credit: ITV News Central

The West Midlands has become the first region to ask the government for billions of pounds in cash, to help stave off the worst of an "unprecedented" downturn.

The region's Conservative Mayor Andy Street unveiled the three-year plans today that need more than three billion pounds of government assistance, calling for "immediate actions" to help stimulate the economy, and get back on the road to business recovery.

61,000 jobs are thought to have been lost in the region since the three-month lockdown, even with the government's furlough measures.

Mayor Andy Street Credit: ITV News Central

In April, the consultancy firm KPMG found that the pandemic would hit the West Midlands harder than any region, due to its job reliance on car plants and factories linked to the automotive supply chain - their findings revealed closing or mothballing these industries would shrink the economy by more than ten per cent.

The West Midlands has already been hit hard in health terms as well, with more than 4,700 people dying after testing positive for Covid-19, as of last week.

The plans unveiled today were drawn up by the area's political, business and trade union leaders, with local cross-party backing. Their message is for the government to work with them to"reset, rebuild and recharge" the region.

The plans include:

  • direct support to industry alongside a commitment to invest in transport, housing and people, creating or safeguarding more than 135,000 jobs.

  • measures to create green manufacturing jobs by harnessing electrification, and to invest in healthcare innovation

  • support in the critical automotive sector, worth £12.5 billion to the West Midlands

  • £250 million for a new gigafactory for electric car batteries, and what Mr Street called a "minimum 30% subsidy for apprentices in this sector"

  • an acceleration of HS2 legacy developments and £60 million towards a new Birmingham Life Sciences Park

  • plan to extend the Midlands metro to Walsall and Wolverhampton and investment in regenerating brownfield sites, helping to deliver 35,000 new homes

  • support 38,400 apprenticeships and retain highly-skilled research and development engineers laid off from key sectors, employing them at the Warwick Manufacturing Group

Mr Street said although the blueprint was diversified, including measures to tap the 5G roll-out and digital and creative industries, it was vital to "defend" existing jobs in the automotive and house-building sector in the region.

University of Birmingham academic Professor Simon Collinson, who was at the launch, called the crisis "unprecedented". He says the region needs more money for those who will inevitably lose their jobs.

He said that during the last economic crisis between 2008-10, the region suffered 90,000 job losses, including 50,000 in manufacturing.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP at one of the government's daily press briefings Credit: PA

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