Targeted help needed for virus-hit automotive industry, Labour says

More help needs to be targeted at specific sectors of the economy such as the automotive industry in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Labour has said.

Shadow business minister Lucy Powell accused the Conservatives of “turning their back” on pledges to help areas where the vehicle manufacturing industry is concentrated, such as the North, Midlands, Wales and Yorkshire.

They include parts of the country where Labour lost ground heavily in the December general election.

Ms Powell said the automotive sector has been badly hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, stating that new car registrations were down 97% in April.

Labour said analysis by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) found car production was down around 50% in June compared with the year before.

Ms Powell also called for support for the industry’s supply chain, as well as focus to be put on creating “green jobs” and ensuring the UK leads the way in decarbonisation.

The shadow minister said: “The UK’s world-leading automotive industry has been rocked by coronavirus and livelihoods are on the line.

“But ministers won’t listen to reason and are refusing to recognise some sectors have been hit harder than others.

“They must urgently target support at the sectors that need it with a focus on creating skilled, green jobs – and do right by the communities across the UK they promised to protect.

“Anything less would be a betrayal of many communities which helped get Boris Johnson elected.”

The automotive sector has been one of the hardest hit industries in the coronavirus lockdown, with production slumping and companies such as Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin cutting jobs.

There are some hopes, however, that next week’s new car registration will see a surge in sales as many people have more money to spend due to working from home and cancelled foreign holidays, while others are concerned about using public transport.

The new warning comes just a few days after Labour claimed that regional inequality risks being deepened as a result of the jobs crisis facing different parts of the UK.

The party said its research revealed which parts of the country will be hardest hit by redundancies, especially if they have a high proportion of workers in struggling sectors such as aviation, retail and manufacturing.

Tens of thousands of job losses have been announced and more redundancies are expected in these sectors, but Labour said they have received no tailored support.

Labour said its study of official figures found that more than 10% of the North West’s workforce is in the retail sector, the highest proportion anywhere in the UK, followed by Wales and the North East.

Almost 13% of the workforce in the East Midlands is in the manufacturing sector, compared to between 10% and 12% in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, Wales, the North East and North West.