Are we being taken for a ride?

Liberal Democrats are shocked to discover that the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, and transport advisors at Transport for West Midlands, (TfWM), have opted for German-made Nextbikes for the City region’s first bike share scheme, rather than those manufactured locally in the West Midlands.

This decision is made even though we have the manufacturing capacity in the region at Pashley in Stratford currently producing London’s Santander bikes, taking no account of local jobs and investment and is yet another blow for British manufacturing as we approach Brexit. It is made as the government announces its own decision to make British passports in France.

EU procurement rules are often cited as a reason for offshoring contracts such as these but across Europe countries nonetheless, manage to source from their domestic producers.

The West Midlands region, at the heart of the UK’s largest transport hub, responsible for 43% of UK automotive and home to great British cycling brands including Stratford Upon Avon-based Pashley Cycles, known as England’s longest established bicycle manufacturer and Dawes, headquartered in Castle Bromwich, which sources its bikes in the Far East. Pashley Cycles have a strong track record currently providing bikes for the Santander London bike scheme – the UK’s largest bike hire scheme.

Whilst the recent announcement speaks of creating 50 new jobs through the decision to source bikes from Nextbike – a Germany company located in Leipzig, the number of jobs that could be created in the West Midlands by sourcing competitively priced and quality bikes produced on our own door step would be considerably greater with a far higher multiplier impacting positively on our local economy.

Speaking about the decision, Steve Bell, General Manager, Pashley Cycles stated, ” Having the bikes built in our Factory in Stratford would have generated a further 10 new jobs which will now be based in Leipzig. Buying these bikes from Germany is essentially supporting the German Mittelstand and turning our back on our own hard pressed medium-sized businesses here in the Midlands. We are a family-owned company investing in sourcing UK made goods, made by local people. With Brexit just around the corner we need to support our own companies, not at a higher cost of course, but at the same or better value for money than those sourced overseas. We are confident our locally-built bikes would have represented at least the same value but we would have generated greater value for money through an economic multiplier impact.”

Dominic Skinner, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Stratford on Avon stated, “It is ironic that our own local business is producing Santander’s new bikes for London, but that their ‘home city’, Birmingham, has opted to purchase bikes from Germany. It is hard to fathom this decision as we enter Brexit Britain where ‘taking back control’ and being able to source more locally to drive local investment, local jobs and a circular economy was ostensibly part of the rationale for this decision.”

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