Manufacturers doubt UK has specific industrial strategy

More than 90 per cent of UK manufacturers don’t believe the government has a specific manufacturing strategy in place, a new report says.

Despite this lack of confidence in government, manufacturers are upbeat about the economic outlook, with one third of companies predicting growth of more than 10 per cent in 2012, according to the survey of 145 firms by accountant and business adviser group MHA.

MHA chairman Mike Brown said recent government statements and plans had indicated a greater interest in rebuilding the UK’s manufacturing but that more extensive and immediate action was needed.

‘I think [manufacturers] are encouraged by some of the initiatives but I still feel they believe they’re not valued in the same way that some of the professions are valued,’ he told The Engineer.

He admitted that some of the perception of current government strategy may be a result of a much longer period of neglect.

‘People do believe the government are trying and I suspect a lot of it is people tend to look back over the last couple of decades rather than the last few years.

‘They look at places such as Germany, the way that it has supported its automotive sector in particular, and the way our government has supported the banks.’

Government funding and education were two areas the survey found a particular issue with government strategy.

Only 48 per cent of respondents believed they had access to government grants while 59 per cent believed the government’s apprenticeship scheme would not allow them to take on more apprentices.

Specific comments in the survey highlighted a perceived lack of government initiative, long-term planning and not enough visibility for schemes such as the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

Mark Swift, spokesperson for the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, told The Engineer: ‘We believe there have been some positive steps to support manufacturing within the current fiscal constraints.

‘[These include] focus on apprenticeships, an increase in funding for UKTI, technology innovation centres, changes to R&D tax credit, to name some, but [the government] needs to re-invigorate its wider growth strategy.’