Ellesmere Port: closure averted but new manufacturing base is needed

Experts say we need a high-end parts maker, such as France’s Valeo, in order to produce a pure British content car

While the closure of a car factory should not represent an indictment of government industrial policy, neither should the saving of one be a ringing endorsement.

Saving the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port is great news for an area that could ill afford to lose 2,100 jobs, and a credit to the hard work of Vince Cable, the Unite trade union and Vauxhall, but experts have cautioned that there is still much to do for industry as a whole.

Karel Williams of Manchester Business School says it is not good enough that Ellesmere Port will source around a quarter of its parts from UK suppliers. It should be closer to 100%, he says, because that implies a much more sustainable and widespread local manufacturing base.

“Cheering every factory that wins a contract is not coming to terms with the problem,” he says. Williams adds that we need a high-end parts maker such as France’s Valeo, a maker of stop-start systems, in order to produce a “pure British content car”.

David Bailey, a car industry expert at Coventry University, agrees: “We are not maximising the benefits of car assembly in the UK if we are importing components.”

The government is making available a ¬£125m fund for potential Ellesmere Port suppliers. But if we extend the experts’ concerns to the UK’s entire manufacturing base, it will require the creation of a new ecosystem of small to medium sized manufacturers. The march of the makers is a long haul.

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