Cut with care

Now that Gordon Brown has used the word in his speech to the TUC, it’s official – cuts are the new investment.

It wasn’t that long ago that any speech by a government minister would include at least one reference to investment, the preferred term for extra spending.

These days, in the face of the nation’s eye-watering debts, everyone wants to talk about savings. Here’s the rub for the engineering and technology community. When times were good and the cash was bountiful, shouting about the importance of engineering, manufacturing and technical innovation marked you down as something of an eccentric.

Now that the era of austerity is upon us and the financial services one-trick pony is revealed as an ass, the productive sector is being asked to take its place in the sun at a time when the economic clouds are thick and heavy with rain.

It is of the utmost importance that whenever those cuts come and whatever party is holding the scissors they do not hinder the ability of the UK’s technology-led industries to do what is asked of them.

That means, for example, not undermining the fundamental and applied scientific research underway in our universities. It means ensuring that enough undergraduates are given the chance to take engineering-led courses to meet companies’ needs five and 10 years from now. The same applies to not compromising technical training for school leavers who want to enter engineering or manufacturing. It means gearing up public procurement so that what money there is to spend is available to support the best, most innovative UK businesses.

In short, it means making a conscious policy decision to use our straitened national resources in favour of the productive economy and making the case for why that is being done. We believe it is a case people are ready to hear.

Andrew Lee, editor