Tory mayor slams Melrose over closure of GKN’s last remaining British car parts factory
West Midlands mayor Andy Street has condemned the owners of GKN over the decision to close its last car parts plant
The Tory mayor of the West Midlands has condemned the owners of GKN after the engineering giant unveiled plans to close its last remaining British car parts factory.
Andy Street, a former boss of department store group John Lewis, said the decision to shut the automotive plant in Birmingham went ‘entirely against the spirit’ of Melrose’s promises when it mounted a hostile takeover of GKN three years ago.
In a letter to the company’s management, he also claimed the shock decision makes little sense given the ‘enormous opportunities’ presented by electric cars, in which the region is seeking to become a world leader. GKN, which was bought by Melrose for £8billion in 2018, announced the closure of the Erdington car component assembly plant last week, putting 519 jobs at risk.
The company insists the plant, which counts Jaguar Land Rover among its customers, is no longer globally competitive.
GKN Aerospace’s nearby King’s Norton factory closed two years ago.
The Mail campaigned against the takeover of GKN – which made cannonballs used at the Battle of Waterloo and helped build the Spitfire – amid fears it could lead to job losses, site closures and asset sales.
Erdington is thought to be the last British-owned car components plant left in the country, with the skilled work it carries out now expected to be sent abroad – a loss that one expert said puts ‘another nail in the coffin’ of the UK car industry.
Seen by the Mail, Street’s letter to GKN Automotive boss Liam Butterworth said the decision to close the Erdington site – in use for 50 years – was ‘deeply disappointing’.
The 57-year-old businessman-turned-politician (pictured) said: ‘I’m afraid this proposed closure, combined with the closure in Kings Norton, suggests that I and others were right to question the [GKN] takeover three years ago.
‘I would urge you and your Melrose colleagues to reflect on your actions following the commitments given in 2018, and look again at this proposed closure and see if alternative options can be explored to keep the site open.’
Pointing to JLR’s plans to develop electric cars and proposals for a battery plant in the Midlands, Street added: ‘I see a region that could lead the world in modern automotive production’.
Howard Wheeldon, an industrials analyst, said the closure was ‘another nail in the coffin’ of the Government’s industrial strategy.
A spokesman for Melrose said it had ‘honoured every single promise’ it made to Government at the time of the GKN takeover, which were ‘a matter of public record’.
She added: ‘We are investing tens of millions every year into ground breaking research and development projects.’