Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, has sent an urgent letter to Tony Blair asking him to open a dialogue on the MG Rover crisis.

Among the measures demanded by Coun Whitby from the Prime Minister are:

* transparency and openness in tackling the crisis and the despair felt by those affected; n the endorsement of an

Enterprise and Innovation Regeneration Zone to which the city has pledged #10 million;

* help in accelerating projects such as a new Deal For Communities-type programme in south west Birmingham;

* to instigate urgent discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor to kick-start the proposed Birmingham and City Region Growth Area;

* to encourage the Chancellor to visit Birmingham and detail investment to support its designation as a Science City; n support the continuing physical development and regeneration of Birmingham city centre;

* nominate an official to help relocate central Government functions to Birmingham;

* confirm commitment to the redevelopment of New Street Station and help bridge the #140 million funding gap;

* provide clear and detailed explanation of the Government's #40 million support for firms hit by the MG Rover crisis.

. . . and save our workers

The threat of more than half the workforce at MG Rover's Longbridge plant being dismissed today has been lifted with a #6.3 million Government loan providing temporary relief to the embattled company.

The loan was announced last night by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt. It will allow wages and other " necessary expenses" to be paid for a week before the situation is reviewed again in seven days.

Without it, 3,500 of the 6,000-workforce - who will hold a mass meeting at Longbridge this morning - would have been handed their redundancy notices today said Derek Simpson, general secretary of the Amicus union.

It has also bought some time for the company, the Government and unions to try and find a buyer for MG Rover and salvage car production at Longbridge as administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers continue to assess the firm's finances.