Business leaders in the West Midlands urged MG Rover workers and those in the supply chain not to give up hope.

John Lamb, from Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), said the news was ?devastating? for the 6,000-strong workforce at Longbridge and those directly supplying the car firm.

But he said: ?We?re doing everything we can and our contingency plans from five years ago are swinging into place and we?ve got a programme for suppliers.

?A lot of companies have diversified since the Phoenix buy-out in 2000 and there?s still quite a skills shortage across the manufacturing sector. So, there?s a pretty good hope that these people can be found new jobs and there?s significant assistance available for those who want to start their own business.?

Mr Lamb?s views were echoed by Chris Burton, his counterpart at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce.

He said: ?The attitude has always been that we should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Since the worst now appears to be happening, we?re ready to deal with it.

?The message we?ve been receiving from Black Country businesses in the automotive supply chain is they have been moving away from reliance on Longbridge for several years.

?So while the news is obviously unwelcome, it does not necessarily mean the end of the world.?

Both chambers have been calling for help from the Government and banks to ease the burden on supply-chain firms, with initiatives such as VAT and PAYE ?holidays?.

They are also looking for local authorities to seek business-rate deferments for affected companies and council tax help for directors of smaller firms whose homes are used as guarantees against business loans.