Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 16:30 UK

Memories of Longbridge factory

By Cath Mackie
BBC News, Longbridge

Derelict former Longbridge car factory
The former Longbridge factory has been flattened since MG Rover collapsed

The East works at the old MG Rover site in Longbridge has been flattened.

Little is left except the memories of former workers like Stephen Gregory.

He was employed here for 16 years. Now he looks through the metal fencing which surrounds the site - giant red squares on the ground mark where production lines once stood.

I invited him along to meet two of his former colleagues to get their views on what happened here, and the news that the serious fraud office won't begin a criminal investigation.

Four years after the company collapsed with the loss of more than 6,000 jobs, all three men are philosophical, all are looking for closure.

Phoenix Four

"If they aren't going to investigate it then leave it. Put a line under it," said Mr Gregory, who now is self-employed as a driving instructor.

The four executives who were in charge of MG Rover when it collapsed were known as the Phoenix Four - they have always denied any wrongdoing.

Stephen Gregory, Maurice Minor and Sid Blenkiron
Stephen Gregory, Maurice Minor and Sid Blenkiron worked at the factory

Now former workers have told me they hope the decision by the Serious Fraud Office not to investigate will result in a long awaited independent report into the company's collapse being released.

That inquiry, commissioned by the government back in 2005, has taken four years to report back and so far has cost the tax payer £16m.

The local Labour MP for Northfield, Richard Burden, said he was looking forward to the publication of the report into the firm's collapse.

"Hopefully it will clarify why it took so long, why it cost so much, but most important of all, that it will clarify what happened during the period of Phoenix stewardship, why the company collapsed, what led up to that," he said.

"I think people in this area, they need those answers to have closure on the closure, this is the nearest thing they've ever experienced and I've ever experienced to a giant collective bereavement and people need to move on.

"Publication is a way of enabling them to move on."

Hardship fund

He said the identity of the area was tied up in the factory and people now needed that report to provide answers as to what happened and why.

He also hopes a hardship fund set up for workers before the company's collapse will now be opened up and compensation paid out.

I think the larger issue is why did it take four years for an investigation costing £16m to find out there's nothing wrong
Maurice Minor, former MG Rover worker

As Mr Gregory looks out onto the old East Works he is joined by two former colleagues.

Maurice Minor has set up his own company supplying temporary labour to the automotive industry, while Sid Blenkiron, at the age of 62, is actively looking for work.

Both of these men worked for more than 30 years at Longbridge.

Both are resigned to the situation, much like Mr Gregory, and agree with his take on the decision by the Serious Fraud Office.

They too want to see the report into what happened here, and with the benefit of hindsight accept the Phoenix Four were not the saviours everyone believed them to be when they bought the company for £10 from BMW in 2000.

They too want workers paid what they are owed from the trust fund.

Mr Minor said the SFO's decision was not a shock.

"It's hardly surprising really, I think the larger issue is why did it take four years for an investigation costing £16m to find out there's nothing wrong."

Mr Blenkiron said he hoped the decision would bring "closure" to former workers and to see the trust fund released.

The whole site is now undergoing redevelopment as part of a 10-year plan to create an urban village with jobs, businesses and homes.

As the three men talk about old times, they hope the time has arrived for them to get on with their lives.



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