A Labour government would take a share in the ownership of massive car battery “gigafactories” such as one planned for the West Midlands.
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband set out the plan in a speech to Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, saying: “A Labour government would help fund the investment in the gigafactories we need.”
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and councils across the region, including Birmingham City Council, are backing plans for a 5.7 million sq ft factory on the site of Coventry Airport, which would be used for battery production and recycling.
The plant’s main customer is expected to be Jaguar Land Rover, though talks with the manufacturer have taken place behind closed doors.
Gigafactories have the support of both major parties, and the Government has promised to make £500 million available nationwide to subsidise their construction. But Labour claims the Tory government has been too slow to make the planned factories a reality.
Mr Miliband said a Labour government would use taxpayers’ money to subsidise the factories and would take a stake in them, to ensure some of the profits were returned to the public.
He told the party conference that the car industry was “vital to the climate fight, vital to the strength of our economy, and providing tens of thousands of jobs in communities across our country.”
He said: “The Tories are losing the global race for electric car manufacturing. That’s why a Labour government would help fund the investment in the gigafactories we need.
“Not just subsidy but public equity stakes taken by government to ensures a people’s dividend from the green transition. That’s what I mean by delivering climate justice and economic justice together.”
Industry experts say the planned Coventry factory is essential in order to ensure the West Midlands remains an attractive location for carmakers. It will also create thousands of new jobs.
A Joint Venture Partnership was formed earlier this year to bring forward proposals, to ensure the Coventry site is ready for investment and can become operational quickly.
A planning application has been submitted by joint venture partners Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd.
They say the proposals would add £434m in economic output to the regional economy each year, as well as create 6,000 new jobs and tens of thousands more in the supply chain.
The proposals also confirm that the Gigafactory will be powered by 100% green energy, using a combination of sources including solar and wind power, as well as grid supplied renewables, and will be able to recycle used batteries as well as build new ones in an industry-leading approach known as ‘cradle to cradle’.
Supporters of the scheme say the West Midlands offers one of the most competitive sites for a Gigafactory in the UK. A third of all cars produced in the UK come from the region, which is home to Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Lagonda, and BMW, whilst Coventry Airport is adjacent to the UK’s largest battery research centre, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC).
In June, both the CBI and SMMT, which represents carmakers, published reports calling for the UK Government to increase its support for UK battery manufacturing facilities to keep up with European competitors.
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