With Britain preparing to go to the polls on May 7, manufacturers are understandably keen to know what the effects of a new government could be for them; says head of SME at Zurich Insurance, Jason Eatock.
We used our latest SME Risk Index to take the temperature of SME manufacturer attitudes towards this changing political landscape, to better understand what manufacturers are looking for from the election and which factors will most influence their vote.
Our research exposes a significant gap between SME manufacturers having an intention to vote and having true confidence of what the election outcome could mean for them.
The great news is that 93% of SME manufacturers plan to vote on May 7 – when compared to a 65% turnout of the wider voting population at the last General Election in 2010, manufacturing intentions to turnout at the polling booths are exceptionally high.
However, this interest does not translate into a strong belief of what the results could mean for the industry.
Only 16% of SME manufacturers surveyed thought the outcome of the election would be positive for them, and nearly a quarter (24%) said it would have no impact. The most popular answer, chosen by 40% of those surveyed, was that manufacturers simply don’t know how the political environment could affect their business.
There is also a lack of consensus among SME manufacturers about whether the coalition government has been positive for them. The question resulted in split opinion: 38% of those surveyed say the coalition has been positive for their business, 36% say it has had no impact and one fifth (19%) say it has been negative, indicating that there is currently no unifying vision among SME manufacturers about what political success has looked like for them.
Despite this lack of clarity about the impact of our current and future governments, manufacturers still intend to vote with a business head.
The majority (59%) of manufacturers who plan to vote say they’ll take the interests of their business into consideration when deciding who to vote for. Furthermore, 46% plan to learn more about the impact of individual party policies on their business before poll day.
Interestingly, while Britain’s businesses are currently unsure about what the effects of the election itself could be, they have stronger views on an EU exit and what it could mean for the wider economic environment.
Almost half, (49%) of SME manufacturer think an EU exit would damage the UK economy. Consequently it makes sense that a similar number (50%) would like to see us remain in the EU. 40% would like to see an EU exit.
When questioned about the role of a future government in helping manufacturers, the firms we spoke to called for a reduction in legislation and red-tape – in fact 43% of respondents named this a top priority.
Perhaps surprisingly, other key issues such as late payment terms and access to finance were lower down the list of priorities, despite their prominence in the small business news agenda.
Ultimately, the data shows that while SME manufacturers know what they want from a post-election government, they aren’t yet sure whether the outcome will be positive for their industry.
And with the polls continually showing support for Labour and the Conservatives as being almost neck and neck, it’s anybody’s guess what the outcome will turn out to be.
What is clear is that with the UK currently ranked as the 11th largest manufacturing nation in the world, success for this sector is vital to British enterprise and continued economic recovery.
We hope that the post-election government, whoever they may be, will prioritise easing the regulatory burden businesses face.