Today sees George Osborne's fifth budget as chancellor, with UK industry focusing on issues surrounding energy and investment boosts to businesses.
The consensus around the 2014 budget from UK manufacturing is to keep things growing. In a year that has seen industry prove a robust part of the economy, with 11 months of consecutive growth and becoming a driver for growth in vacancies, momentum is gathering pace.
Ahead of the chancellor’s speech at 1230GMT today, figures from UK industry have had their say on what they would like to see in today’s speech.
Investment boosts + Job creation
Today showed UK unemployment has fallen by 63,000 to 2.33m in the three months to January 2014. This follows PMI statistics from earlier this month showing manufacturing jobs growth rose at its fastest rate since May 2011.
Lee Hopley, chief economist for manufacturers’ organisation EEF, has urged the government to do all it can to throw its support behind UK industry to support further investment and job creation.
“Manufacturers are clearly feeling more confident as their order books fill up and exports are strong. It is now vital that government does all that it can to underpin support for companies, giving manufacturers the confidence to fulfill their investment and recruitment plans.”
BDO’s head of manufacturing, Tom Lawton, said that it had been some time since all sectors have been moving in the right direction, something that has started to change.
“This should also give confidence to the government that its support for the sector is starting to achieve the desired results and if implemented in a clear and carefully targeted fashion will continue to reap benefits,” he said.
Energy has already garnered attention in the run up to the budget, with manufacturers earlier this month urging the chancellor to make the issue a priority.
The Confederation of British Industry has urged ministers to do more to encourage business investment as well as reducing cost pressures on energy-intensive companies.
This includes a freeze on the Carbon Price Floor (CPF) tax for 2015/16, an extension of the Energy-Intensive Industry Compensation Package while making Combined Heat and Power exempt from the CPF.
Its director-general John Cridland said: “It’s vital that we have a robust carbon price across Europe if we are to obtain the investment in energy infrastructure that the UK needs.
“At the same time, we need to recognise that British businesses, especially energy-intensive industries, are struggling with high energy costs so we want to freeze the Carbon Price Floor to help firms compete internationally, as well as ease pressure on household bills.”
Regional Growth and Innovation
Manufacturers are also hoping to see a renewed emphasis placed on regional growth and innovation. One of the regions rejuvenated as a result of the 1.9% rise in the economy is the East Midlands, which has seen unemployment tumble by 21.6%.
Andy Poon, CEO of engineering and simulation specialist Romax Technologies which is based in the city, said a reduction in unemployment, plus the availability of a skilled workforce, is allowing the region to retrain and attract the best and brightest into resisting the capital and staying in the Midlands.
“Strengthening the Midlands is very important to us and was a key factor in our decision to locate to the new site,” he said.
We have strong connections with the University of Nottingham, which provides us with the ideal opportunity to work alongside strategic partners on the latest innovations, technologies and processes that will benefit the economy.”
Mr Poon, whose company is celebrating its 25th anniversary, added: “We originally estimated that this would lead to the creation of 100 new jobs but we are actually confident that it will be more than this, which is not only fantastic for us, but also the region.”
Tony Attard, chairman North West Institute of Directors, said he hopes to see the government further its support for business to protect and accelerate the regions in the recovery phase.
“Working in the manufacturing and textile industry myself, I know first hand the difficulties the UK industry has seen in recent years. The injection of more financial initiatives will allow for more job opportunities and an increase in employment.
“We support HM Treasury’s business taxation roadmap and, in particular, the commitment for authentic consultation on proposed business tax reforms.”
— House of Commons (@HouseofCommons) March 19, 2014