In 2012 we launched our ‘Manufacturing the Future’ report, which provided detailed insight into the current state of UK manufacturing and the actions needed to make manufacturing a key part of the economy for the next decade. Whilst our report helped to create a picture of the current sentiment of the industry, manufacturers really wanted to understand what tangible steps were being made to encourage growth – particularly by the Government.
This does not come as a surprise. Manufacturers have been left confused and, in many cases, disillusioned by the support the Government has provided to the sector – particularly when it had been touting it as the potential saviour of the country’s economic problems.
Unnecessary bureaucracy, tax burdens, difficulty in obtaining finance and a lack of clarity in addressing an impending skills crisis form the principal concerns manufacturers are desperate for the Government to address.
To their credit, the Government has paid more attention to manufacturing in recent years, with the introduction of Manufacturing Advisory Service and Technology Strategy Board, which both distribute money and services to grow the manufacturing sector. The UK also has Funding for Lending, a scheme to provide small firms with cheaper borrowing and the equity-capital Business Growth Fund.
Despite the progress that has been achieved, however, the efforts to grow manufacturing are missing a defined strategy. What does this mean? Targets. We believe that the Government needs to set a fixed target – say 15 per cent – for manufacturing within GDP. A target gradually pulls all the things needed to achieve that target into line behind and nurtures strategy.
What have the Government said to us? Our follow-up report to Manufacturing the Future presents MP responses to the concerns raised by UK manufacturers. It shares the initiatives that the Conservative Party and the Labour Party would like to introduce to support a manufacturing-led recovery and their thoughts on reducing bureaucracy and tax burdens in business.
As expected, the parties share different opinions. What do you think about the role of the Government in the development of the sector?