This is the full text of the urgent letter Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby has sent to Tony Blair asking him to open a dialogue on the MG Rover crisis and stressing the need to work together to address its long-term impact on the West Midlands
As you know I have been trying to make contact with you to outline my thinking on how we can collectively address the long-term impact of what has become the MG Rover crisis.
Nevertheless I am pleased that you were able to visit the city on Friday to hear first hand of the devastating effect that the demise of MG Rover will have on Birmingham and the city-region. Had we met I would have pointed out the stark facts of a Longbridge closure: n 12,200 people affected directly through the supplychain and related companies n up to 15 per cent of the City's manufacturing capacity lost n one per cent reduction in the Birmingham and West Midlands GDP (£486m per year)
* some £200m of public revenue estimated to be lost per annum
This is an issue of national importance and I am keen to work with you to create the strongest possible future for the people affected and the long-term economy of the Birmingham city-region. We await the outcome of the Administrator's report concerning MG Rover's future.
You will now know I immediately set up a dedicated support team to provide information and advice to the families and individuals affected by this crisis. Already we are gauging the sense of loss and despair amongst people that see little hope for the future. I would urge you to be transparent and open in your thoughts on how we can collectively assist them in building fresh hope.
I have pledged £10 million of local resources to establish an Enterprise and Innovation Regeneration Zone for South West Birmingham. I would ask you to endorse this local initiative and lend your support towards ensuring it creates real opportunities for sustainable employment in the area.
In addition, we believe we could run a New Deal For Communities- type programme supporting the revitalisation of the South West Birmingham area. We must do everything possible to create a future for the Longbridge facility. It would be a tragedy if we were not able to retrieve some kind of manufacturing there in the long-term.
However I recognise that the economy of Birmingham and the city-region is being challenged and is changing forever. We must now accelerate the projects that can help us move forward in a restructured economy.
We have a number of major opportunities to move the local economy of Birmingham city-region forward that I would ask you to seriously consider.
Firstly, working with the other six metropolitan authorities we have developed the case for the Birmingham and city region growth area. We are developing plans to kick-start the growth of this area that will add value to the nations GDP. I would ask you to encourage the Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor to begin urgent discussions with the city and our partners.
If we are to diversify our economy successfully we recognise the need to focus on added value activities. The recent designation of Science City status is very much welcomed. I would ask that you encourage the Chancellor to visit the city and meet me to discuss how we might use the designation to kick start a new project, focusing on the intellectual property that we have in our universities and science based companies.
The city centre is undergoing another major phase of physical development. In the next five years billions of pounds will have been invested here. Well over two million sq ft of office accommodation will come onto the market during that period. It is imperative that we attract end-users quickly to ensure we do not lose momentum.
The Lyons Review identified the real opportunity of relocating central government functions to Birmingham. We are keen to confirm Birmingham as an ideal location to attract such departments and have already undertaken a great deal of work to demonstrate the strength of our offer. We are keen to re-activate early relocation projects. Can I ask you to nominate an official to liaise immediately with my chief executive?
New development will be wasted if our infrastructure cannot support it. New Street station is now handling double the number of passengers it was designed for. As the nation's crossroads our transport capacity is under strain and in need of urgent investment.
The redevelopment of New Street Station is therefore imperative and the gap funding of an extra £140 million in addition to the £200 million already earmarked is vital if we are to continue the successful regeneration of Birmingham and the city region.
I would be happy to outline our ambitious plans for what, in effect is the busiest and most strategically significant rail hub in Britain, so that you can conform your commitment to making this vital project happen. Naturally I will be an active member of the task force that meets officially for the first time tomorrow.
If there is any possible hope of retrieving a new deal with SAIC, supported by your officials, we must work collectively toward it at great speed.
I would urge you to ensure that your Department of Trade and Industry officials, now working with the MG Rover administrators at Longbridge, provide the task force with up-to-date detailed information to give us the best possible opportunity to support a new resolution.
I understand that the Chancellor has indicated that more financial assistance may be made available in addition to the £40 m pledged by the Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry on Friday. It is imperative that we are given a clear and detailed explanation of what this support might entail as quickly as possible.
Clearly our focus during the challenging hours, days and weeks ahead will be to do all we can to address the MG Rover crisis. However I want you to understand that we are a can-do city that meets challenges head on.
We are under no illusions. The impact of this tragedy will challenge the shape and face of Birmingham and the city-region forever.
We must now look to the future and do all in our power to secure hope and confidence for our people. These are the sentiments I would have expressed had we met. I trust you will echo them and I look forward to your actions.