Commenting on BritishVolt’s announcement today (December 11) that it plans to invest £2.6bn in an electric vehicle battery plant in Wansbeck, Northumberland, which coincided with a visit by prime minister Boris Johnson, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said, “Unite welcomes BritishVolt’s potential £2.6bn investment in Wansbeck.
“Such an investment could see thousands of skilled jobs created in battery manufacturing and the extended supply chain, which are essential to supporting the UK’s world class automotive industry and its transition to electrification,” he added.
“This could be exactly the kind of stimulus the local economy and the UK’s manufacturing communities need to achieve Britain’s net zero carbon targets. However, Unite is concerned that Boris Johnson has cynically jumped on an announcement by a company that is still far from achieving its stated aims.
“It is not lost on us that until last week, BritishVolt were proposing to build this same plant close to St Athan, Wales, with an agreement in place with the Welsh government,” Turner went on to say. “There were also the same shortcomings in investment and lack of a strategic partner with technical and manufacturing expertise.
“In September last year, Mr Johnson announced that Ineos’ plans to build a 4×4 in Wales ‘will deliver hundreds of new jobs in Bridgend and is a vote of confidence in UK expertise, making sure we keep our status as a pioneer in new vehicle technologies’.
“After using the hope Ineos generated to boost his popularity, Mr Johnson was nowhere to be seen when it emerged this week that those jobs have now gone to France.
“The prime minister is now desperate for some good news to deflect from the devastating impacts of a no deal, particularly on automakers such as Nissan in Sunderland,” he continued. “The fact that Mr Johnson’s visit to Wansbeck was made without informing the constituency MP Ian Lavery, just heightens our concerns the prime minister could be pulling a PR stunt rather than backing a realistic plan.
“The prime minister will not be forgiven if he is piggybacking on fleeting hopes without any strategy or commitment to deliver the finances and support necessary to make the Wansbeck Gigafactory happen. It would be absolutely wicked for the prime minister to play with the hopes and aspirations of people desperate to see secure well-paid jobs return to a region devastated by years of underinvestment and government failure.
“Mr Johnson must provide the support and investment necessary for BritishVolt to get the factory up and running. This must be part of an interventionist industrial strategy that sees all elements – including infrastructure, cell and battery production and vehicle manufacture – aligned to provide jobs to families and communities that have been so long ignored.”
By Ryan Fletcher