Government policies are failing industry, manufacturers tell IMechE

Posted on 24 May 2012 by Tim Brown

The Government’s industrial policies are falling short according to manufacturers and have been harshly criticised in a poll commissioned by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The survey of 1,000 manufacturers revealed that half of respondents believe the Government is performing badly on manufacturing policy, with just 14% of those polled saying the Government is performing well. This follows figures from the Office of National Statistics which show that the country’s manufacturing sector has actually shrunk by 0.9% since the first quarter of 2011 while the services sector as a whole has grown by 1%.

Twice as many respondents (41%) think the Government’s policies aren’t helping them as those who think they are working (19%). This is a markedly worse response than the 2011 survey, when the split was 28%/23%.

When asked, unprompted, to name the biggest negative impact on investment in manufacturing, 7.4% of manufacturers named ‘lack of Government support’. This was the second most named negative factor behind skills shortage with 8.2%.

Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

“The UK’s manufacturing sector has the potential to spearhead economic recovery and lead the country towards growth,” said Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “Rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing is not an easy task, however these polls make it clear that the Government’s policies to make it happen do not have the support of UK manufacturers or the general public.”

In the strongest result of the survey, more than 75% of manufacturers and 72% of the public said the Government should favour UK-based companies when awarding contracts, even if this is a more expensive option.

And it wasn’t just manufacturers who were critical of the Government’s approach to manufacturing. In a poll of 1,000 members of the public, 72% said the Government is more committed to the financial sector than manufacturing while just 26% of respondents agreed that that the Government is committed to rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing.

“The results of these polls show that there is strong public support for Government to favour UK-based firms,” said Ms Oldham. “The Government is the UK’s largest consumer, and has the ability to decide which companies are awarded many of the UK’s largest manufacturing projects. The impact on UK jobs and the local economy must be made a key part of the criteria in deciding which firms are awarded Government contracts.