NEWS: Erdington loses out on Levelling Up millions as the only Birmingham bid to fail at the first round

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington High Street lost out on millions of pounds of investment today when its application for the Government’s Levelling Up Fund fell at the first round – as announced in the Chancellor’s Spending Review.

One of four applications made by Birmingham City Council, Erdington High Street’s bid was the only one to be denied at this stage – despite being for the lowest amount of money.

The Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion national pot of money earmarked by Government for regional investment into local infrastructure.

The Levelling Up Fund application for Erdington High Street was at £12,700,000 – with further investment coming from the private sector, including the transformation of Central Square into a destination venue of shops, cafes, bars, and apartments.

Birmingham’s other bids, which have all made it through the first round, include £19,941,000 for the A457 Dudley Road Improvement Scheme, £17,145,000 for the Wheels site remediation, and £15,539,000 for Moseley Road Swimming Baths.

Erdington’s Levelling Up Fund bid was worked on by both Labour and Conservative politicians in the area – alongside key local stakeholders including Godwin Developments, Witton Lodge Community Association, and Erdington Business Improvement District.

Following the news, Erdington MP Jack Dromey (Lab) issued the following statement:

“Once again, the Government has failed to provide the investment Erdington High Street so desperately needs. This decision flies in the face of their ‘levelling up’ rhetoric and badly lets down one of the poorest communities in the country.

“This investment would have provided an invaluable economic, social and cultural boost to our community, as well as providing employment opportunities for Erdington, which has an unemployment rate that stands at twice the national average.

“But this is not the first time Government has let Erdington down. Following the rejection of the Future High Streets Fund bid on Boxing Day, we continued to seek investment in our High Street.

“Working together with Birmingham City Council, key local stakeholders, and the local community, we submitted this comprehensive and ambitious bid to the Levelling Up Fund complete with a solid business case and significant private investment.

“This makes the decision to deny Erdington of investment once again outrageous and inexplicable.”

Erdington ward Councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore (Con) made the following statements:

Cllr Robert Alden said: “This is a bitterly disappointing decision.

“When the Council took the four bids for Birmingham through cabinet, we warned that the Council providing £15m of match funding for the other three bids and nothing for Erdington would weaken the application and give the impression to civil servants that the Council clearly considered the bid to be less important than the other four.

“Sadly, that is exactly what seems to have happened”.

Cllr Gareth Moore added “The Council administration refusing to put match funding into the Erdington bid, was always a kick in the teeth for the hard work of local partners like the Erdington BID, Witton Lodge Community Association, regeneration officers who worked on the bid, businesses, developers and community and church groups.

“So, to now see that the three bids the Council did match fund were approved and that the Council refusal to match fund Erdington has potentially cost Erdington is disgraceful.

“However, a massive thank you to all the partners and officers involved who have been helping fight for Erdington”.

Erdington recently missed out the Future High Streets Fund, another cross party and local stakeholder application, which would have seen over £50m pumped into the town centre in a joint investment from Government and the private sector.

 

LOCAL OPINION: Community spirit is alive and well in Stockland Green

Words by Uzma Shaffiq / Pics by Ed King

“The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.” 

Uzma Shaffiq, Community Developer Officer for The Pioneer Group, talks to Erdington Local about the community backbone and neighbourhood camaraderie that supported Stockland Green through the coronavirus crisis. 

Starting my new role at The Pioneer Group in February 2020, I had high hopes of building a strong network of organisations and people who wanted to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work. From these networks, I would be instrumental in creating several initiatives, and 2020 was going to be the best start to my working life.

Little did I realise, COVID-19 was waiting just around the corner, ready to turn everything on its head. The pandemic struck and suddenly residents needed support more than ever.

As for everyone, those first few weeks were a challenge. We needed to mobilise on a scale not seen since World War 2; but as a proud University of Birmingham History graduate, I understood the dedication behind communities in those tumultuous times and I knew our work would provide crucial support to residents during this modern crisis.

Our team works throughout a number of communities such as Stockland Green, Castle Vale and Falcon Lodge – and while each area may have a different programme of specific needs, we still come together to share ideas. Last year we faced the same challenge – we needed to support residents in all communities to ensure that no one was hungry, felt isolated or was left in a vulnerable situation.

With face-to-face interactions gone, the internet was suddenly our saviour and became critical as a tool to communicate in our quest to build a better community. It was no longer about boots on the ground, but rather fingers on keyboards and faces on video calls.

We started by meeting online with residents and community groups to understand their concerns and priorities. There were so many people that want to be actively involved in supporting the Stockland Green community, it was incredibly heart-warming to see how deeply people cared for their friends, family, and neighbours.

Food provision and mental health support was top of the list and once these areas had been outlined, we witnessed a huge mobilisation within the community. The beautiful thing is that they come from all walks of life and ages, from pensioners to school children – all dedicated to help.

Local organisations supplied food parcels and arranged prescription runs to support residents through the months of uncertainty, and an army of residents came forward to help with the deliveries. The whole initiative was so moving; without these wonderful volunteers giving their free time, we could never have helped so many people.

For those that were more isolated and may not have much use of the internet, such as some elderly, wellbeing activity packs were created and delivered to keep recipients busy during lockdowns. Fantastic at raising spirits, boosting morale, and giving those who are staying at home something exciting to do, the packs were also delivered by volunteers, the lifeblood of our community.

2020 also saw the birth of other voluntary organisations such as the Stockland Green Action Group with the aim of making the community a better place. I am always blown away with their efforts as they tackle fly-tipping, unsightly alleyways, and fight for a better tomorrow for Stockland Green. We are pleased to work closely with these members, supporting them with funding bids and various initiatives as they set a shining example of community spirit.

With a keen sense of keeping the Stockland Green passion alive, we also revived the Stockland Green Ward Forum where organisations such as the Local Regeneration Trust, Councillors, the local MP, and residents all come together to work towards a shared vision of a better Stockland Green.

For The Pioneer Group, the commitment to the area has never been stronger. We provide affordable housing and want our tenants and their neighbours to feel safe and secure in their homes which is why we are now working with Birmingham City Council to deliver the new Safer Streets programme; a £432,000 initiative in Stockland Green that will implement a range of measures including street lighting upgrades, six redeployable CCTV cameras, and a crime prevention assessment for all homes.

Over the last 18 months, our community has faced major hardships with a healthcare crisis, job losses and new way of living. We came together to survive. Today we are in a good place to build even stronger community spirit as we say goodbye to 2021, probably the hardest year many of us have faced.

I look forward to 2022 and everything we are doing to make Stockland Green a great place to live and work.

For more from The Pioneer Group, and the work they do across Stockland Green and North Birmingham, visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk

NEWS: Erdington businesses to vote on future of Business Improvement District

Words & pics by Ed King

The future of the Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) hangs in the balance as local businesses vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for another five year term.

Local shop owners and businesses within the catchment area have until November 11 to cast their vote – which will decide future of the Erdington BID after June 2022.

Erdington BID represents businesses from Six Ways to Edwards Road, including all shops fronts on Erdington High Street and Sutton New Road.

Charging members 1.75% of the rateable value of their business, if re-elected the Erdington BID expects to generate £116,000 per year from 2022 to 2027 to help promote and support commerce in the area.

In Erdington BID’s five year forecast, if re-elected the organisation would allocate an annual sum of £26000 towards security, £20000 towards marketing, events and promotion, and £8000 to keeping the streets clean.

£42700 per annum would be spent on Erdington BID itself, paying for a ‘town centre manager, admin, finance, and business support’. A further £3000 each year would be used to pay back Birmingham City Council for loans to cover ‘renewal expenses’.

Terry Guest, Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, told Erdington Local: “Priorities over the next five years will be to continue to make the town centre a safe and secure place to visit and shop.

“If successful, the BID will increase our warden presence in the area to six days from five, increase shops radio coverage for greater security, and to work with the local police and council to renew the Public Space Protection Order for the area, which empowers police to remove potentially threatening groups and troublemakers.

“We will also continue to press for town centre improvements to modernise the High Street and to work with the council, property owners and developers to that end – and to ensure that funding for such projects will be sought.

“We are also looking at increasing green areas in the town centre – a look at the garden next to the library – projected by the BID – which shows what can be done in small spaces.

“Above all, we will continue to work with ou business owners to ensure that Erdington town centre gets the best deal in creating a quality local High Street fit for the future.”

But opinion on the High Street is split, with business owners divided over whether Erdington BID warrants the annual six figure sum.

In a recent survey conducted by Erdington Local, nine out of 18 business confirmed they would vote ‘yes’ to grant Erdington BID another five year term – with the remaining nine unsure or voting ‘no’.

When the same businesses were asked if the Erdington BID ‘adds value to the High Street’ five answered ‘yes’. Six answered ‘yes’ when asked if Erdington BID was ‘helpful to business during the COVID lockdowns?’

Terry Guest added: “I think we maintained a good working relationship with businesses during the lockdown periods, not forgetting that a large number of our retailers were qualified to remain open and trading.

“The job of the BID during the lockdowns was to ensure that the town centre was a healthy place to visit, and with the help of the council, we were able to do that.

“We also worked with businesses in ensuring that all funding help was available to them – and we had a near 100% success rate with that.”

Further concerns were raised from local business about applications made for multi-million pound investment into Erdington, such as the failed Future High Street Fund and the pending Levelling Up Fund bids.

The Future High Street Fund would have seen up to £13m coming from Government and invested directly into Erdington High Steet.

But due to the final submission being deemed “not eligible” by the then Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall, Erdington lost out on what many believed was a strong application.

More recently, an application has been made to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund which would see £12.7million coming into Erdington.

But some local businesses are wary, with one shop owner stating: “I’ve been here for years and heard countless promises about investment into the High Street… but I’m still looking at the same cracked windows and flaking paint.”

When asked about the pending application, Terry Guest said: “I have to be confident of us getting the Levelling Up award, because the original application contained factors which have been scrutinised and amended – so I am looking forward to a positive result.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

NEWS: Woman arrested on ‘attempted murder’ following vehicle attack on Reservoir Road – man remains in critical condition

Words by Ed King / Pics by Jobe Baker Sullivan

Reservoir Road was shut down today following a disturbance late on Friday night, leading police to cordon off the Erdington/Stockland Green thoroughfare whilst searching for clues.

As confusion grew across the area, with traffic brought to a standstill, West Midlands Police were reticent to issue any information other than the situation “was not fatal.”

Later on, it emerged there had been an ‘attempted murder’ using a vehicle – a 44 year woman has been arrested, whilst a ‘man in his 40’s remain in hospital in critical condition.’

People across the area had seen police presence arrive on Friday night, one Stockland Green resident told Erdington Local: “I saw some flashing lights late last night… but I didn’t think anything of it, there are flashing lights around here all the time.”

Another local resident speculated it may be a hit and run, with someone having wandered into traffic whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

They said: “Most nights, all round the shops, the druggies come and hang out.”

Terry Bracher, who lives on nearby Bleak Hill Road, told Erdington Local: “Whilst walking the dog I saw police and taped off area, but didn’t know what it was.”

Local artist Jennette Hill said: “I saw the police last (Friday) night as I drove through on my way home, at about midnight. I thought it must have been bad.”

Following requests from Erdington Local and other concerned parties, West Midlands Police issued the following statement earlier today: “A woman has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a man has been seriously injured after being hit by a car in Erdington.“

We were called to Reservoir Road at just after 10pm last night (8 October) and found a man with significant head injuries.

“The vehicle left the scene but has since been recovered and a 44-year-old woman has been arrested.

“The woman – who is known to the man – has also been detained on suspicion of driving while unfit through drink or drugs and remains in police custody for questioning. The man in his 40s remains in hospital in a critical condition.

“The road remains closed off while our enquiries continue and anyone with information is urged to get in contact.”

As investigations continue, West Midlands Police are calling to members of the public to come forward with any information that might help shed light on the case.

Stockland Green has just received £432,000 from the Government’s Safer Street initiative, which will be used to tackle street level crime, anti-social behaviour, and public disorder.

Stockland Green stakeholders are in the process of engaging with the community to formulate a Neighbourhood Plan.

The strategy will see local residents, police, strategic partners, and Birmingham City Counmcil join forces and work together to make positive changes in thre area.

West Midlands Police have stated anyone with information about the attack on Reservoir Road can get in touch via Live Chat at www.west-midlands.police.uk or call 101 and quote 20/1792022/21.

NEWS: Erdington MP calls on Government ‘to ensure a decision is made’ over £12.7million Levelling Up Fund

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington MP Jack Dromey has called on Government to ‘ensure a decision is made… as soon as possible’ over a £12.7million Levelling Up Fund investment into the High Street, Erdington Local can reveal.

In a letter issued to Michael Gove earlier today, Mr Dromey urged the recently appointed Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to respond to Erdington’s bid – allowing Birmingham City Council and local stakeholders to ‘get on with the job of delivering the improvements to infrastructure Erdington so desperately needs.’

An application for the Levelling Up Fund was submitted by Birmingham City Council in June, which if successful would see a multi-million pound injection into Erdington High Street, but has so far received no response from Government.

One of the criteria for the Levelling Up Fund, a £4.8 billion national pot of money for investment into local infrastructure, is for any successful bid to ‘begin delivery on the ground in the 2021-22 financial year’.

With only 6 months to go until April, concerns are growing if a decision is not reached soon the ambitious plans for the High Street could become impossible to deliver.

In his letter to Michael Gove, Mr Dromey continued: ‘I always say that Erdington may be one of the poorest constituencies in the country, but we are rich in talent.

‘The determination, innovation, and passion of local people, especially in the face of adversity as we have seen recently, never ceases to amaze and inspire me. However, without investment we will never realise this potential to its fullest.’

To read the full letter sent by Jack Dromey MP to Michael Gove click here.

Erdington’s Levelling Up Fund bid was worked on by both Labour and Conservative politicians in the area – alongside key local stakeholders including Godwin Developments, Witton Lodge Community Association, and Erdington Business Improvement District.

Included in the bid were plans for a major redevelopment of Central Square, transformation of St Barnabas’s churchyard, and seeing the listed Erdington Baths turned into a cutting edge business hub.

Erdington recently missed out the Future High Streets Fund, an application made that would have seen over £50m pumped into the town centre in a joint investment from Government and the private sector.

Now the hopes for the High Street are pinned to the Levelling Up Fund, which would again see a £12.7million investment from Government topped up by the private sector.

Godwin Developments, who are looking to develop Central Square into a Brindley Place style destination venue of restaurants, cafes, and stylish accommodation, are keen to help transform Erdington High Street.

Matt Chandler, Development Director at Godwin Developments, told Erdington Local: “Erdington, with its young population, has great potential and the Levelling Up Fund would ensure that it is unlocked with a major boost from well-thought through schemes breathing life into the high street, providing places to live and community assets for years to come.

“The Fund would prove transformational for the area, creating economic, employment and cultural opportunities for residents and encouraging further inward investment.

“With the Commonwealth Games arriving in Birmingham next year, all areas of the city should receive the investment they deserve.”

NEWS: Strike at GKN Chester Road factory ‘suspended’ until October

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Unite and Jack Dromey MP

The planned strike at the GKN Chester Road factory will be suspended until Monday 18 October, announced Unite the Union in a statement issued this week.

Scheduled to begin on Monday 27 September, industrial action will now be put on hold for at least three weeks whilst representatives of the 500 strong workforce finally begin talks with GKN owners Melrose PLC.

GKN workers, Unite the Union, and Erdington MP Jack Dromey have been calling for emergency talks with Melrose for several months, wanting to explore alternatives to closing the plant, but have been constantly rebuffed.

At the eleventh hour ahead of industrial action Melrose have now agreed to enter talks about the future of the plant, which provides essential drives lines for the automotive industry – including the nearby Jaguar Land Rover plant at Castle Vale.

A plan for the Chester Road factory had previously been put forward and hopes remain the Erdington site could play a key part in the electrification of the UK’s automotive sector, building the new propulsion units needed in electric vehicles.

Unite national officer Des Quinn said: “In the spirit of good will, the planned strike action has been suspended to allow for talks about the future of the factory with key stakeholders to take place.

“It is hoped that all sides can use this window of opportunity to secure a long term future for the factory.

“Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.”

Since the closure was announced at the start of the year, MP for Erdington Jack Dromey has been working with Unite the Union to negotiate a deal to save the Erdington factory.

Mr Dromey added: “The reopening of negotiations between the workers, their union, Unite, and GKN/Melrose presents a real opportunity to secure a settlement to save the GKN plant from closure.

“The GKN workers and Unite have always been clear that they stood ready to enter any discussions to save the GKN Chester Road plant from closure.

“In the spirit of that commitment they have suspended strike action to allow these talks to now take place. In return, the company have made clear their commitment to pause any movement of works and machinery out of the plant.

“It is vital that all those involved in these talks now do all they can to keep the plant open and to stop 519 well-paid, skilled jobs being lost in one of Britain’s most deprived communities.

“The role of Government will be key to prevent closure and the export of production to Poland and France. The British Automotive industry needs high-quality components made here in Britain.”

To find out more about GKN Automotive visit www.gknautomotive.com

For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org

For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk  

 

NEWS: Erdington Street Pastors are now on patrol

Words by Adam Smith

The first Street Pastors were commissioned this week, with a ceremony taking on Saturday 18 September. The uniformed support workers are set to become familiar faces in Erdington patrolling the High Street.

The outdoor commissioning ceremony was held near Costa Coffee, where 12 volunteers from local churches were given the relevant powers by The Ascension Trust to become Street Pastors.

First launched in 2003 in Brixton there are now 240 towns and high streets in the UK where The Ascention Trust have trained volunteers to provide a reassuring presence during the day and night.

Erdington MP Jack Dromey and Assistant West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil attended the service.

Erdington Street Pastors chairman Rasaq Ibrahim told Erdington Local: “This has been a journey of ten months to get to this point.

“We had a target of 20 pastors to start with but at the moment we have 12. We will be recruiting more in October and I urge anyone who believes they could be a street pastor to get in touch.

“Eventually we hope to patrol the High Street every day but for now we can only do twice a week, Mondays and Saturdays for a few hours at a time.”

He added: “We will engage with everyone on the High Street, no matter their race or religion, we want to be recognisable and be there to help people who need help.”

Mel Taylor, from Six Ways Baptist Church, was commissioned as a Street Pastor and is looking forward to starting his role.

He said: “I have lived in Erdington for a long while and have seen the difference food banks have made so I wanted to get involved.

“Through the foodbank I have got to see the problems local people face and I think being a Street Pastor will help me help others.”

Erdington MP Jack Dromey believes the new Street Pastors will make a difference to the High Street.

He said: “The High Street has been in decline for years and the launch of Street Pastors initiative is a landmark.

“What we badly need is local people, from the churches, patrolling the High Street combating crime and anti-social behaviour but also reaching out to the vulnerable.

“I think it is an outstanding initiative and will hopefully go some way to tackle people who are causing problems for the High Street.”

He added: “The Street Pastors along with the investment we hopefuly will get from the Levelling Up fund will make a huge difference to Erdington High Street.”

Assistant West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil spoke to the Street Pastors and members of the public on the High Street.

He said: “We support the Street Pastors and are very grateful for the work they will be doing.

“The PCC Simon Foster is very aware of this project and is happy to be funding it and he has said he will go out with the Street Pastors as soon as is possible.

“The kind of work Erdington Street Pastors will be doing is so important because people will respond to them as they will know they are coming from a place of compassion, and they will be part of the community.

“The privilege is ours and we look forward to working with the Street Pastors in the future.”

If you believe you could be a Street Pastor email chair.erdington@streetpastors.org.uk and for more information – or visit www.ascensiontrust.org/street-pastors

NEWS: A strong start to a long awaited season for Erdington United FC

Words by Liam Smith / Pics by Ultimate Kingz & Erdington United

Sunday League football is back in full flow with the ending of lockdowns and the easing of Covid restrictions this year.

Excitement has been building over the summer for the players at Erdington United FC (EUFC), who are now getting back on the pitch for some long awaited fixtures.

Erdington United FC are off to a strong start in their current season, securing a 3-0 victory away from home for their season opener, followed by a 4-1 home victory against Hundred Acre Streetly.

In their most recent fixture Erdington United again came out worthy winners, giving Castle Vale Olympic a thrashing with a 9-1 win.

The club have moved to the Sutton League from the Festival League in search of a new challenge, after a comfortable title win in their first season. EUFC have been placed into Division One, after some pre-season and cup success.

Erdington Local caught up with their manager, Tyler Ward, who is optimistic about the season ahead – as well as giving an insight into the club’s beginnings.

“We’re a club who have most of our players from and based in Erdington,” told Ward. “We’re a young side with many of us having known each other for the past 10+ years, having gone to school together etc.”

EUFC’s manager is confident on his team’s success this season, after their first season title wins. At the point of being confirmed as league champions last season, Erdington United had a 100% record in the league – something which Tyler believes can help them push on with their aims this season.

“Our priority for the season is to get promoted into the Premier Division, and to get as far as possible in the four cup competitions we’re in. We know the quality we have amongst the players. We are confident that come summer we’ll be exactly where we need to be.”

Erdington United are always on the lookout for players to further improve and develop their squad; information on specific player profiles they are looking to fill can be found on their social media.

The club play their home games at Holly Lane on Sundays and always welcome people to go along and watch.

Regular updates on fixtures and results are also posted on their social media platforms – with all links available via the Erdington United FC website.

For more on Erdington United FC visit www.erdingtonunited.org

NEWS: Erdington Street Pastors take to the streets with official ‘commissioning’ ceremony

Words by Ed King

Erdington will the see the ‘commissioning’ of twelve Street Pastors on Saturday 18 September, at a public event taking place outside Costa Coffee on the High Street from 11am.

From Saturday onward a dozen Street Pastors will be patrolling the streets of Erdington, after being officially welcomed into the community during a ceremony from the nationwide Ascension Trust  – who pioneered the original Street Pastors project in 2003 in London.

Working with the police and local community leaders/groups, the Street Pastors will be helping to tackle issues around anti-social behaviour and public disturbances, whilst offering a friendly face for anyone who needs help or just wants to talk.

A global initiative, Street Pastors are working in communities across the world – with teams active in over 240 cities and town across the UK, including 20 in the West Midlands alone.

Recruitment is also already underway for more volunteers, with plans to train a further 20 Street Pastors from October – who will be active across Erdington in groups of twos and threes from November 2021.

Speaking at the commissioning event for the first twelve Erdington Street Pastors on Saturday 18 September will be the West Midlands Assistant Police Crime Commissioner, Tom McNeil, who will be making the keynote speech to welcome the initial team.

Also addressing both the public and Street Pastors will be MP for Erdington Jack Dromey, Pastor Rasaq Ibrahim from the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), and a selected group of civic and Church leaders.

Pastor Rasaq is the Chair of the management committee for the Erdington Streets Pastors project.

Pastor Rasaq told Erdington Local: “The Erdington Street Pastors are a chance for the Church to get out onto the streets – to help, listen to, and care for the people of Erdington. They will be there to offer support to everyone, no matter what faith or background the Street Pastors will be there to help.

“Erdington has seen an increase in crime an anti-social behaviour and the Street Pastors will be working with the police to tackle these ills in our community.

“There are Street Pastors working in cities and community across the world, and they have been proven to help reduce crime and increase support for the community.

“The Street Pastors are going to give people in Erdington another layer of support and will be a visible helping hand on the High Street and further across the constituency.

“Anyone looking to join the Erdington Street Pastors should get in touch – we offer full training and support, taking in new recruits from October.”

For more information about the Erdington Street Pastors and to see if you can get involved email Pastor Rasaq at chair.erdington@streetpastors.org.uk

NEWS: GKN Chester Road workers on ‘all out continuous strikes’ from September 27

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Unite the Union and Jack Dromey MP

Workers at GKN Chester Road’s factory will be on ‘all out continuous strikes’ from Monday September 27, a statement from Unite the Union announced today.

Earlier in the month, Unite the Union held a ballot for industrial action with 95% of workers who voted saying they were in favour of strikes.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “GKN’s cynical attempt to close its Erdington plant is a disgrace. We will not stand by and let this employer offshore British jobs without a fight.

“We will leave no stone unturned in the ongoing battle to ensure the future of the Birmingham factory and our members.”

Unite national officer Des Quinn added: “Melrose GKN has grave questions to answer, if it has taken government money for research and development and now intends to use what it has developed abroad, that is a betrayal of the workforce, a betrayal of Birmingham and a betrayal of UK taxpayers.”

In January 2021 GKN Driveline owners Melrose PLC announced plans to close the Chester Road, with production being moved to plants in Poland and France – making over 500 Erdington workers unemployed.

Hopes were the Erdington factory could play a key part in the electrification of the UK’s automotive sector, building the new propulsion units needed in electric vehicles.

But despite repeated efforts from Unite the Union, Jack Dromey MP for Erdington, and the Chester Road factory staff, Melrose have remained steadfast in their plans to close the Chester Road site.

In a previous statement, Melrose said: “GKN Automotive has fully considered the counter proposals put forward. However, the outlook for the highly competitive automotive market remains unchanged.

“Regretfully, therefore, we are proceeding with our proposal to close the site. Supporting our people continues to be our priority.”

Jack Dromey MP raised concerns over the future of the Chester Road factory when Melrose took over GKN back in 2018.

Since the closure was announced at the start of the year, Mr Dromey has been working with Unite the Union to negotiate a deal to save the Erdington factory.

In response to today’s announcement, setting the date for strike action as Monday September 27, Jack Dromey MP said: “For the past eight months, the 519 workers at GKN Chester Road have fought hard to explore all possible alternatives to closure of the Chester Road site.

“In that time, GKN/Melrose have rejected the workers’ comprehensive alternative business plan and since then have flatly refused repeated invitations to enter further discussions about how to save the plant from closure.

“GKN/Melrose have shown nothing but contempt for the workers and what is at stake for them and their families and also the great damage closure will inflict on the local economy.

“Faced with such intransigence by GKN/Melrose and their intention to push ahead with closure by summer 2022, the workers have been left with no alternative but to take strike action.

“The workers have mine and the local community’s 100% support. As their local MP, I and their trade union, Unite, will continue to explore all options to keep jobs and production at Chester Road.

“We believe there is a way forward and we stand ready to enter any talks to save the plant. GKN/Melrose and the Government must now show the same commitment.”

To find out more about GKN Automotive visit www.gknautomotive.com
For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org
For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk