Efforts to prevent MG Rover?s collapse turning the area around the Longbridge plant into an economic wasteland were under way last night.

City officials fear a flight of families from the area could threaten the viability of key services such as schools in Longbridge and surrounding districts.

Planners are already having to contend with declining birth rates and an increasingly ageing population in the area.

The collapse of MG Rover - the biggest supplier of jobs - risks causing a further reduction of the population as families move elsewhere in search of better prospects.

Earlier this week, Rover workers were told their skills would be a valuable asset in Australia where there are vacancies for automotive workers.

Conservative councillor Randal Brew, whose Northfield ward borders Longbridge, said it was vital help came quick to give people a reason to stay.

?For those who find themselves without an income I would ask them not to panic,? he said.

?We are getting services in place to try and keep the community together. If there is going to be new investment in the Long-bridge plant I think it needs to be available sooner rather than later.?

A Community Support Board consisting of elected councillors, council officers, health and youth workers and other experts has been set up to provide support to workers.

Coun Brew said: ?We are not going to be able to replace what has gone, but we can offer support.?

With a sizeable proportion of the workforce around the Longbridge plant dependent on MG Rover, officials are not under-estimating the impact of the firm?s demise.

The shock wave is likely to be felt by many local businesses, such as shops. Population flight and economic decline could also affect property prices and the ability of schools to sustain pupil numbers.