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Last week Labour leader Ed Miliband promised "the biggest devolution of power to England's great towns and cities in a hundred years" in a move which shifted Labour's focus on local economic development away from the 'old' administrative regions as in RDA-days towards 'city and county regions'.

Speaking in Birmingham, Miliband said that he wants cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol to become powerful urban dynamos, taking control of budgets for skills, housing, transport and the Work Programme so to boost their economies.

I'm still trying to figure out how the Peugeot 308 won the car of the year title instead of the Nissan Qashqai, BMW i3 or Mercedes S class. News that the firm plans to develop the DS brand as a premium brand leave me further scratching my head in disbelief. For that's exactly what the new PSA Peugeot Citroen boss Carlos Tavares is planning to do.

To be fair to Tavares, he has some good ideas in his new "Back in the Race" plan, notably in hacking away at the hugely overblown product portfolio and boosting expansion in the Asian growth markets. The plan aims to achieve a 2% operating margin in the operating division by 2018 and 5% beyond that.

Toyota announced this week that it is recalling another 6.5m cars across 27 different models to fix five different problems, including faulty steering wheels and seats. It's another blow for the world's biggest selling car firm, whose reputation in recent years has taken something of a battering over quality issues.

In identifying problems and fixes quickly this time the firm is doing the right thing. Nevertheless, it's another big recall for the firm. Since early 2012, the company has recalled around 20m vehicles and sold 18.7m. The latest recall isn't even the biggest announced in a single day: back in in October 2012 it recalled 7.4m cars, mainly Yaris and Corolla models over faulty window switches.

You wouldn't necessarily have expected Morgan sports cars to be at the forefront of a revolution in how cars are designed and made. But it's a remarkable collaborative effort between Morgan and aluminium specialist Superform which is helping to create growth and jobs, and to redefine the nature of the industry.

Superform, based at Blackpole in Worcester, has over the past 40 developed years a unique "superforming" technology that gives designers unprecedented freedom to create from sheet aluminium highly complex parts that simply can't be made by conventional stamping processes.


Midlands-based, iconic-car maker Aston Martin is thought to have secured as much as £165m in funding to support investment a new model range. That's good news for the firm that makes James Bond's favourite car.

The firm has been losing market share in recent years. It posted a pre-tax loss of almost £25m for the year ended December 2012. Sales were down by 9% to £460m in 2012.

Part of Aston Martin's struggle is down to the fact that the firm was loaded with debt after it was sold off by Ford. The cost of servicing this debt in turn impacted on new model development.

While some new models have been introduced, the underpinnings of its current range of cars date back to the VH platform from the early 2000s and some pretty dated Ford technology. They make look cool but the Aston Martin range of cars needs more than just a style make-over. Put simply, Aston Martin has fallen behind rivals.


The much-vaunted 'March of the Makers' may well have stumbled last year (manufacturing output actually fell by 0.6% in 2013) but is finally moving again, and at a decent enough rate for now at least. That recovery is getting moving thanks to more stable conditions in the Eurozone - still the UK's biggest trading partner - and rising consumer demand at home.

It is against this better picture that more firms are planning to take on workers, according to a survey by the manufacturing body EEF and accountancy firm BDO. A balance of 31% of manufacturers stated that they planned to take on more staff in the next three months, the highest figure since 2000, with car manufacturing and the electrical sector leading the way. And a balance of 34% of firms stated that they planned to increase investment in the coming quarter, also a record high.

Hastily set up in the wake of the coalition government's knee-jerk scrapping of the Regional Development Agencies, the government's much trumpeted 'Regional Growth Fund' (RGF) appears still beset by problems.

Sadly, much of the RGF remains unspent and the cost of actually creating jobs through it has rocketed, the National Audit Office has claimed in a recent report.

In a further progress report on the much troubled fund, Parliament's official spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) concluded that the government faces "a significant challenge, particularly in 2014-15 where the budget is £1.4bn, to spend money as quickly as originally expected."


After considerable public pressure (and following an online petition signed by over 400 people), the Capita Service Birmingham Contract (or rather one of the contracts at least) has been partly published.

'Partly' is the key word, as still hidden from the public's view are those key and important parts of the contract which Capita's lawyers consider to be 'commercially sensitive'.

The most commercially sensitive thing about these contracts is that Birmingham's Citizens have been paying £345,000 per day to Capita Service Birmingham under this contract.

Gaydon-based Aston Martin, makers of sports cars for the rich and cool (and a secret agent by the name of James Bond of course), recently announced that it is recalling most of its sports cars built since late 2007 after discovering a Chinese sub-supplier was using counterfeit plastic material in a part supplied to the firm.

Aston Martin is recalling around 17,600 cars according to a report by Reuters. That's tiny in car industry terms but huge for a small firm that makes just a few thousand cars a year. The recall includes all of its left-hand-drive models built since November 2007 and all right-hand-drive models built since May 2012, affecting about 75% of the sports cars made in that period.


There's a very real risk that another tranche of motor industry history and several hundred jobs - in the form of Dunlop Motorsport - are about to disappear from Birmingham. Oddly, that risk hasn't come about through business failure, but rather success.

The rapid growth of Jaguar Land Rover has meant the latter has (understandably) acquired the Ashold Farm Road site that Dunlop leases so as to expand its burgeoning Castle Bromwich plant. And while Dunlop Motorsport has been granted a three-month extension to stay on its current site until September, production is set to cease in May.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
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Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
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John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of mediafuturesalert.com and justliteracy.com
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John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
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Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (frienddigital.com)
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Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
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Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
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Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
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Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
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Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
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Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
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Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
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Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
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Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
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Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
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Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
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