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UK manufacturers doubt Government’s commitment to sector

11 December, 2015

UK manufacturers have become less confident in the Government’s ability to create a more balanced economy by expanding the sector, according to a new survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the accountants and business advisers, BDO.

The latest in an annual series of studies that gauge the opinions of 1,000 manufacturers and 1,000 members of the public, reveals that only 45% of the manufacturers believe that the Government is committed to creating a more balanced economy by growing the sector – a drop on last year’s 48%. However, this is in contrast to the public perception, with 40% believing that the Government is committed to creating a balanced economy - up 7% from last year.

The Engineered in Britain: Manufacturing a Successful Economy? report finds that 75% of manufacturers would prefer the Government to favour British-based companies when awarding manufacturing contracts, even if this was a more expensive option. The view was also backed by the public with 80% also saying British companies should be favoured. When asked if they were finding engineers with the right skills and abilities, 49% of the manufacturers polled said no, highlighting the work that needs to be done to address the skills shortages within the sector.

“The UK economy has seen slow and steady growth since the financial crisis in 2008, however, full confidence in the manufacturing sector’s road to recovery has been patchy at best,” comments Philippa Oldham, the IMechE’s head of manufacturing. “The report shows that 77% of the manufacturers think that the lack of skilled engineers is the biggest barrier to future growth. We need to show our support to the sector through long-term commitment to large infrastructure projects and do more to encourage industry to both up-skill and retain their UK workforce.

“The solution is not for the Government alone to solve,” she adds. “What is needed is for the industry leaders to work with the Government and other parties to form a solution if the UK is to remain a major force in the global economic marketplace.”

The IMechE/BDO report highlights doubts about the UK government's commitment to manufacturing

“It is worrying to see that confidence in the Government’s commitment to sector growth is waning,” says Tom Lawton, BDO’s head of manufacturing. “We all know that the manufacturing sector plays a critical role in rebalancing our economy and driving long-term sustainable growth for the UK.

“What is needed is a government that can match manufacturers’ long-term ambitions; one that looks 15–20 years ahead and, importantly, avoids the disruptions of political cycles,” he continues. “Creating a cross-party industrial policy and appointing a Minister for Manufacturing would be a great step forward. It will send a clear message that the future of manufacturing should be seen as important to us all.”

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