Polls suggest that UK policies aren’t helping manufacturers

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A poll of industry and the public suggests that government policies aren’t helping manufacturers.

Results from two polls commissioned by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) — which form part of the Manufacturing a Successful Economy report — reveal that the majority of manufacturers are unhappy with government policies.

The initial survey of 1,000 manufacturers reveals that half of respondents believe the government is performing badly on manufacturing policy, with just 14 per cent of those polled saying the government is performing well.

This follows figures from the Office of National Statistics, which shows that the country’s manufacturing sector has shrunk by 0.9 per cent since the first quarter of 2011.

Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at IMechE, told The Engineer: ‘It all comes back to this industrial strategy and government actually working with industry to formulate that strategy.’

Oldham recently attended a parliamentary manufacturing group meeting where the Department of Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) spoke of several funding streams that are available, such as the local economic finance scheme and the regional growth fund.

‘You speak to manufacturers and SMEs and they don’t know which ones to apply for,’ said Oldham.

She said there needs to be some clear guidance and communication from government as to which funding options are available for manufacturers.

Oldham also claimed that a change in the way manufacturers are taxed should be prioritised over a new ‘Bank for Industry’.

‘If we are going to end up with a Bank for Industry then it has to be created through detailed words and communication with industry to actually see how it helps them,’ said Oldham.

In a second poll of 1,000 members of the public, 72 per cent said the government is more committed to the financial sector than the manufacturing sector, while just 26 per cent of respondents agreed that the government is committed to rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing.

There was clear agreement between manufacturers (75 per cent) and the public (72 per cent) that the government should award contracts to UK-based companies, even if it was seen as the more expensive option.

In a separate development, research by accountants and business advisors BDO reveals that 26 per cent of manufacturers believe the government is adopting the right strategies to support and develop UK manufacturing. 

93 per cent of manufacturers value the government’s message that manufacturing is essential to the UK economy, but the research indicates they do not see policy pledges translating to concrete change.

Looking ahead, 73 per cent of manufacturers predict overall improvement in the economic outlook, but 51 per cent are not confident that manufacturing will be a core sector of the UK economy in 10 years’ time.