Britain, once “The workshop of the world”, has seen its manufacturing industries steadily decline from their heyday in the 19th century. Having said that it’s still a very important sector for the UK economy and the government has recently launched a green paper outlining its future industrial strategy. The EEF, the Manufacturers’ Association, has submitted a response to ensure that companies like ourselves, which make a wide variety of custom metal products including desks, shelves, birdfeeders, retail displays and component parts, get the focused support we need. In this post we share some of the key points made by the EEF in the hope you’ll find them useful and reassuring.
What is the green paper about?
It sets out the government’s vision and proposals for strengthening the industrial capability of the country as we prepare for a post-Brexit world. Three key objectives emerge. Firstly the need to build on the UK’s industrial strengths and extend excellence into the future. Secondly to close the gap between the UK’s most productive companies, industries, places and people and those that currently lag behind. Thirdly, to make the UK one of the most competitive places in the world to start or grow a business.
How has it been received?
EEF has responded by canvassing the views of manufacturers, then distilled these into a report outlining what are seen as the plan’s strengths and weaknesses. The report also set out set out those areas where it was felt the proposed strategy could benefit from further development ahead of the forthcoming white paper.
What were the key points made by the EEF in their response?
The EEF welcomed the fact that the government was refocusing on industrial strategy and felt that manufacturers were broadly in favour of the main recommendations. However, there was a feeling that some areas left room for improvement.
- The EEF agreed that the cross-cutting policy ‘pillars’ featured in the green paper, skills, infrastructure, energy and innovation, are the right ones – not only are the correct priorities but are areas where the government can effectively exert influence to shape outcomes for the private sector.
- It was noted that some of these pillars were explored in more detail, and supported by greater resources, than others. The plans for science and innovation were praised for being comprehensive and there was agreement that there is a need to build on the success of existing schemes. The EEF was also positive about the plans for the infrastructure pillar and it was noted there has been much progress on improving decision-making on big projects. With regard to energy it was suggested that more detail is needed on who will benefit from lower costs and that greater focus is required on the transition to a low carbon economy. On the subject of skills development manufacturers wanted more detail on how they can work with education providers to shape the curricula.
- The green paper gives a list of initiatives for early sector deals. These sectors include life sciences, low emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation, nuclear industry and creative industries. It is made clear, however, that this list is not exclusive nor definitive and stresses the government’s willingness to work with any sector. The EEF would like more information on the mechanics of securing a sector deal. It also felt there was a need for further discussions with manufacturers and other industry bodies to create more structure and to get good deals that make a genuine difference to the fortunes of the sectors in question.
- The government’s existing approach on ‘place’ fits with how the EEF would like to see industrial strategy delivered. Action that is already underway to devolve power and funding to local areas, create combined authorities and elect mayors was broadly welcomed as the basis of better sub-national decision making on priorities such as infrastructure and planning. It was felt the government should continue with this process and that there is no need for new institutions to deliver strategy outcomes.
- The main element that was felt to be missing was a vision of what success looks like, with some clear benchmarks against which progress can be measured.
So, what are your plans?
It’s encouraging that the government is working hard to develop a plan to provide further support to British manufacturing. It’s also good news that they are broadly in agreement with the companies in the sector about the areas where they can make a meaningful contribution. More importantly, however, what are your plans? If you need our design engineering and metal fabrication capabilities to make things happen then don’t hesitate to get in touch!