Workers celebrate but plant is a step nearer to closure

Rover workers will wake to an industrial-sized hangover this morning after Alchemy's decision to abandon plans to buy Rover. For some it will be caused by celebratory drinks, for others by the knowledge that the Longbridge plant has come a step nearer to closure. The thought that the Phoenix consortium is "the only show in town" may not be of too much comfort.

While unions have publicly backed the rival bid tabled by Phoenix, led by the former Rover chief executive John Towers, they have also held strong private misgivings.

Alchemy Partners, the venture capital company based in Covent Garden, was openly derided as an "asset-stripper", while Mr Towers' group was held up as the last best hope.

The mood among most workers who gathered outside the plant's main entrance yesterday was one of relief that Alchemy had pulled out.

David Seal, 30, who has worked at Rover for 10 years, returned from his Easter holiday expecting a redundancy notice on his doormat. He said: "Hopefully we can now get the people in who will give us a future. I might even take up the offer to buy a Rover car."

Shop steward Carl Lanchester, 51, described how he heard of Alchemy's withdrawal on his way to a meeting at the plant with Transport and General Workers' Union colleagues. He said: "I heard an item on the radio just as I came through the gates. I rushed in and said 'Yes, Moulton's out'. Everyone went mad."

Not all were so optimistic that the Alchemy withdrawal guaranteed the plant's future. Richard Howell, 60, who has worked for Rover for 31 years, said: "We need to keep our feet very firmly on the ground. We don't really trust BMW anymore and the threat remains."

The name now on most lips at Longbridge, which has been on a two-week lay-off and restarts production next Tuesday, is that of Mr Towers.

Assembly worker David Campbell, 40, said: "Towers is the man we want. We feel like we've been raped by BMW and Alchemy would have just finished the job. All we have wanted through this is a glimmer of hope and we can now pray with some justification that the Towers bid will come off."

But behind the scenes senior trade unionists have been criticising Mr Towers' consortium for a lack of professionalism and compulsive secrecy. Some even said that the Phoenix project relied on an injection of £500m each from the Government and BMW and that ministers would be expected to underwrite the group's loans with state funds.

The German car manufacturer has said it will decide on the future of theplant within the next month. BMW's statement made clear that the plant's closure, with the loss of 9,000 jobs, was a serious alternative.

For Eleanor Smith, 74, whose family has worked at Longbridge for three generations, it is what happens next that is her prime concern. "It's like the man on Death Row who gets a reprieve. Great, we're still alive but what sort of existence can we look forward to?"

The economics of the plant remain daunting for any new management. There is huge over-capacity in the industry globally and Rover has suffered more than most from consumer indifference. There has also been a view that cars in dealers' showrooms were about to be reduced in price.

Ministers feel that the Towers consortium may be forced to go cap in hand to the Government. The Prime Minister will then be faced with the unpalatable prospect of rescuing a "lame duck" industry or alternatively forfeiting thousands of votes in the West Midlands. Ministers would want the Phoenix consortium to rise from the ashes without visible means of support from the state. That looks unrealistic.

From the Government's point of view, the next best alternative would be that Alchemy would resume its interest in Rover; it would save 4,000 jobs without direct state aid and the West Midlands would get a modest amount of government money to mitigate the impact of the job losses.

It was noticeable on Thursday that within hours of BMW virtually casting aside the Phoenix approach, the deal with Alchemy collapsed. Unless Mr Towers raises his game, the venture capitalists could find themselves in poll position. It is perfectly possible that Jon Moulton of Alchemy has pulled out temporarily to enhance his negotiating position.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Application Support Analyst / 1st Line Support

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence