Unions and politicians have reacted with dismay after Dunlop tyres announced plans to shift manufacturing abroad in a move putting 241 jobs at risk in Birmingham.
In an announcement on Monday, Dunlop Motorsport Europe said it could not remain at its current site in the Erdington district of Birmingham, where tyres have been manufactured for almost a century, after its lease ends later this year.
Unions, the city council and the local MP greeted the news with confusion, dismay and anger after revealing the firm had been offered other city sites as possible alternatives. Dunlop’s regional managing director has said there is no other "appropriate site available locally" and will instead begin transferring production to existing plants in France and Germany.
The Labour MP Jack Dromey, in whose constituency the plant is sited, blasted the American-based company for "disgraceful behaviour". He said Dunlop had "agreed to examine all options of remaining in Birmingham at a Dunlop summit" which included looking at a relocation in the city, after a meeting arranged by Business Secretary Vince Cable was called to discuss the issue four days ago. Mr Dromey said the company's announcement showed "contempt" for the city and the UK.
Road tyres have been manufactured in one guise or another on the Erdington site since the early 20th century. In its heyday, almost 10,000 people were employed at the much larger Dunlop plant, before the majority of that site was redeveloped for office and retail use. The building still carries the name Fort Dunlop to reflect its historic links.
The much smaller race tyre production plant is part of what remains of that heritage, which now looks set to finish when the lease comes to an end on September 1.
Sanjay Khanna, managing director of Dunlop Brand Europe, said: "Our strong preference was to remain on our existing site, but this has not proved possible. For several months, we have also worked closely with local agencies and authorities to identify local Birmingham site alternatives. Unfortunately no other appropriate site was available locally which would have provided continuity of supply to our key customers."
Unite regional officer Andy Taylor declared that the union “will not accept the company walking away from its commitments or its obligations to fully consult the workforce on this decision and will be looking to challenge and change the decision."
Sir Albert Bore, Birmingham City Council leader, described the announcement as "bitterly disappointing", calling Dunlop's decision "perplexing" in light of recent efforts to keep the company's operations in the West Midlands.
"As a council we have done everything within our power since last May to make it as easy as possible for Dunlop to remain in the city," Bore said. "They have been offered several alternative sites including the Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Aston, The Hub at Witton and Prologis Park in Minworth. We've also considered any grant support that might be possible as part of our offer.
“I have personally written to Richard Kramer, Chairman, President and CEO of their parent firm Goodyear, in Ohio, to state our case. Given the UK's reputation as a centre of global motorsport excellence, it is a perplexing decision, and I would urge Dunlop to reconsider - it is not too late to rethink."