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SAVE ROVER PLANT, UNIONS BEG PRESCOTT

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Trade unions are calling on John Prescott to intervene to secure the future of Rover's giant Longbridge plant, repo...
Trade unions are calling on John Prescott to intervene to secure the future of Rover's giant Longbridge plant, reported The Observer (Business section, p1). Negotiations between BMW, Rover's German parent, and the department of trade and industry were still deadlocked over the weekend following the treasury's refusal to approve more than£100m of state aid.

The government's offer of£118m, including£18m of local authority and training grants, infuriated BMW. The company had expected at least£180m to underwrite a£1.7bn investment to secure Longbridge's 11,500 jobs. With 50,000 other local jobs at risk, the Rover crisis is the biggest challenge facing the new West Midlands Regional Development Agency, which starts work on Thursday.

Mr Prescott's DETR has yet to announce the level of funding for the agency, one of eight around the country which will take over existing projects worth£1bn. The West Midlands RDA is chaired by Alex Stephenson, managing director of Rover's engines division, and includes Jim Hunt, chairman of the Midlands TUC and regional secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, and motor industry expert Kumar Bhattacharyya.

The TGWU said at the weekend it would press Mr Prescott and the RDA for more money to top up the offer to BMW. Tony Woodley, TGWU national negotiator for the motor industry, said:'Any pressure we can bring to bear, we will. Any assistance from any budget is needed for this vital project'.

The chairmen of the new RDAs were sent draft budgets on 16 March by Richard Caborn, the minister for the regions, and new funding for the agencies may be announced this week.
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