The conference season has exposed the gulf between a progressive Labour Party vision for the UK and that of a stagnant and divisive vision laid bare by the Conservative conference fallout. Unfortunately, following years of mismanagement, a series of global crisis and now the self-damaging mini budget, the UK is facing some of the most significant social and economic challenges of the last 40 years.
The economic packages announced by the government may help contain some of the energy crisis for now, although the long-term debt created will be a lasting legacy of the Liz Truss administration. But what’s clear to me is that the support will do little to help our residents meet some of the wider and more entrenched cost of living challenges being faced across the UK.
One way to secure a more prosperous future for our residents is through the diversification and growth of our economy coupled with skills development and technological innovation. These are all areas of policy focus I’m working on to enable local growth here in Coventry. The West Midlands gigafactory, in Coventry, is widely seen as one of the most beneficial and impactful investment opportunities within the UK. The gigafactory will result in a £2.5bn investment and create up to 6,000 new jobs alongside thousands more in the wider supply chain. The gigafactory is imperative for the UK’s electrified future and will ensure Coventry, the West Midlands and the UK remains at the heart of the transition to cleaner and greener industry.
Inaction by the Tories to sufficiently support the securing of an investor for the site, however, has led to the opportunities not yet being fully realised. This inaction must end if the UK is to remain a world leading automotive and industrialised power. We need to act. And we need to act now. The gigafactory will not only transform the automotive industry, but it will lead to green energy creation for many more sectors in the UK economy, something that will ensure long-term growth.
As well as the potential for job creation, the advanced nature of the technologies will require significant skills growth, leading to improved real wages for local people. That is why I have recently backed the joint development of the council’s economic development strategy and the skills strategy. Both are designed to work together to ensure the benefits of investment and economic growth can be maximised for local people. It is vital we bridge the green skills gap and develop a coordinated approach to economic growth, net zero and workforce pay.
Coventry has already succeeded in securing investment of £130m in the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC). This has helped leverage further public and private sector investment, particularly in world-leading research and development including Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) at the University of Warwick. We now need the government to redouble its efforts to secure a long-term investor for the gigafactory, instead of sitting on the side lines and watching UK industry whither on the vine.
Here in Coventry, we don’t just want to create green energy – we want to put it to good use, too. That’s why, as a pioneer in transport technology, we are developing Coventry Very Light Rail, which will deliver an affordable, rail-based transport solution for cities and local areas where the cost of a traditional tram is unaffordable.
As the country looks to the future of green travel, a mass transit system like Coventry Very Light Rail will help the UK deliver decarbonisation of the transport sector. The project also continues to mobilise a new manufacturing sector in the UK, creating high value training and job opportunities associated with design, construction and information technology. Coventry is at the forefront of developing innovative research and development capability for light rapid transit, which can be exported abroad. As the Prime Minister talks about investment in infrastructure, economic growth and skills development, I ask her to commit support to these existing projects that are able to deliver now for the UK.
The UK is on a knife edge as a consequence of a cost-of-living crisis driven by uncontrolled inflation, 12 years of underfunding for public services and a recession looming. Now is the time for bold and courageous decisions to lead on the green industrial revolution. Coventry is building the infrastructure of the future, that will secure long-term economic diversification, growth in skills and improved conditions for the workforce. The challenge has been set, and Coventry is ready to work with government and industry to meet it.