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Friday, February 5, 1999 Published at 13:09 GMT

Business: The Company File

Rover closure could devastate economy

The West Midlands' car industry relies on Rover

If Rover's Longbridge plant is closed, it will deal a terrible blow to the West Midlands, a region already reeling from a slump in UK manufacturing orders.

The BBC's Peter Hunt: "Closure would deliver a body blow to the local economy"
As the largest employer in Birmingham and one of the biggest factories in the UK, Longbridge is vital to the local economy.

Rover employs 14,000 workers at the sprawling plant, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Around 50,000 people are employed in companies that supply the Birmingham plant. Without Longbridge their jobs are in jeopardy.

The 2,500 redundancies already announced are bad enough - but if more were to go it would be a bitter blow for an industrial heartland that was built around the car industry.

Rover workers: concerned
Rover workers were stunned by the threat of more job cuts.

One worker told the BBC: "Yes I am very concerned, we all is quite scary really."

Another said: "It is not looking too good. The management are not saying anything to us."

Bleak job prospects

[ image: Longbridge has been producing cars for 93 years]
Longbridge has been producing cars for 93 years
The chances of Longbridge workers finding new jobs in the area look bleak.

A recent survey by the British Chambers of Commerce said the outlook for manufacturing companies in the region was gloomy. Orders have been hit by a fall in economic growth around the world and the strong pound.

Rover employs around 37,000 UK workers at three plants around the country. Longbridge, its biggest, manufacturers the Mini, MG and Rover 200 and 400 models. It also produces the new Rover 75 model at Cowley and its Land Rover models at Solihull.

If the plant is closed it would end a long and proud car making history at Longbridge.

Henry Austin liked the rural setting on the southern edge of the City and first started producing cars at Longbridge in 1906

The first car produced at the plant was an Austin Endcliffe Phaeton, and since then the plant has given birth to the Mini in 1959, followed by the Austin 1100 in 1963 and the Metro in 1980.

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