Business

Coventry at work: Manufacturing props up private sector

Jaguar cars at a show in Romania
Image caption Jaguar Landrover has been the biggest recruiter in the area

Coventry is a city where many jobs can be lost and won in the space of a day.

I've been looking at what's been happening in the private sector in the last three months.

We're following a cross-section of private sector companies in Coventry as part of our project to track its fortunes over the next year and beyond.

The job creation has been pretty impressive. Our 60 companies have generated 833 new posts.

The biggest recruiter has been Jaguar Landrover, which has two bases in Coventry and is powering ahead with a multi-billion pound investment. It took on 525 new staff across its business.

The other big recruiter has been the Ricoh Arena, with 86 posts, mainly in catering.

Mike De Courcey Travel, the coach company, has won £3m of new contracts and taken on 40 new staff. It will also make the headlines over the coming months with the UK's first electric bus.

The most symbolic deal for the city has been the news that car production is set to return to the site of the former car plant at Brown's Lane. CPP Manufacturing, the engineering company that helps produce low-volume, specialist cars, is planning to build a new manufacturing plant there. In the meantime, it has taken on 23 new workers.

Across our companies, only a handful of the new staff taken on appear to have come from the public sector, though.

There have been some job losses too, but most of the 52 posts were people who had reached the end of their contracts or retired.

As for confidence, most companies said this hadn't changed from the previous three months, and some, like Metaswtich Networks, the Coventry telecoms company, are still very optimistic indeed.

But in the midst of compiling this update came news that the energy company Eon is to cut 500 jobs, many of them at its head office in Coventry. The company said it was looking to reduce the number employed by its UK support functions to reflect the changing nature of its business.

It is a huge blow to the city, which is now starting to feel the effect of the imminent closure of the Axa building.

The owner, Friends Life, no longer needs the premises and more than 400 white-collar workers are in the process of being let go.

These are jobs that will be hard to replace and it's these people, not public sector workers, who will be touring the recruitment offices looking for work.

Louise Bennett, the boss of the local Chamber of Commerce, isn't as confident as she was a few months ago.

"Things have started to slide a bit," she told me.

"There's been a dip in confidence and it's reflected across the board. The only bright spot for us is manufacturing."

Like every part of the UK, Coventry is caught up in the worries about the eurozone and the state of the global economy.

So what about the public sector workers we're keeping tabs on?

The former council worker, Paul Odera, is feeling the most vulnerable. He used to run the Friends Programme, a volunteer-based community programme, but the funding ran out at the end of March.

His wife has now given birth and he needs to find a new post more than ever.

"It is still very difficult out there and I just hope something comes up soon," Paul told me.

But there also seems to be more pressure on some of our workers who remain in the public sector.

Chris Burrow, a Coventry City Council librarian, is relieved to still be in a job, but it's clear from the piece he's written for us that he and his colleagues are feeling stretched.

Others have also left the public sector, including council employees Eric Hodgkins and Ted Hiscocks, who have both left voluntarily and are filling their days with a host of new activities.

Over at Coventry NHS, Dionne Trivedi and Laurence Tressler have moved into the private sector.

While most of our public sector workers remain employed, the underlying feeling is one of not knowing what's around the corner.

Like the rest of our economy, the situation in Coventry feels finely balanced.