UK manufacturing: if it isn’t broken…

Posted on 6 May 2015 by The Manufacturer

EEF CEO Terry Scuoler shares why he thinks the next Government should continue to bolster growth and support investment to push economic recovery.

Terry Scuoler, CEO, EEF
Terry Scuoler, CEO, EEF

While the recent political brawling may not have been the most edifying sight, attention must quickly revert back to the serious business of long-term planning and building on the growth we are currently experiencing.

If Britain is to compete globally as a country we must therefore continue to invest. One of the key deliverables of that investment must of course be improved productivity.

A key driver of productivity is people. Our employees need to be highly skilled, motivated and ready to learn new ways of working and capabilities.

At EEF we are working with Government to develop a new National College for Advanced Manufacturing, which alongside other institutions, will help train the experts who will drive our economy towards becoming a global powerhouse.

These are the sort of initiatives that are needed to help boost our nation’s productivity. Some of the measures announced in the last Budget, if carried through by the next government, will encourage further investment in innovation and research and development, especially the planned support for world class technologies and easier access to R&D tax credits for small firms.

All parties, however, must embrace long-term planning for our economy and our industrial future. These are my top priorities for whoever enters 10 Downing Street on the May 9.

British car production has increased by more than 50% since 2009,  creating new opportunities for domestic suppliers.
British car production has increased by more than 50% since 2009.

First, if it isn’t broken please don’t try to fix it. We have elements of an industrial strategy in place which have, to date, successfully supported sectors of manufacturing and helped them to thrive, of which the most obvious is the automotive sector.

We now have funding in place for centres which specialise in supporting innovation between industry and our universities. We have commitments to put employers in the driving seat on apprenticeships so that they buy the training necessary to ensure we have the most skilled employees.

Greater support for exporters to improve our trade performance is now also available. In essence, a new administration must avoid the temptation to tinker with what is working well.

Secondly, Government can make it much easier to do business by ensuring we have world class infrastructure. Despite considerable promises, one of the blemishes on the coalition’s record is a failure to deliver significant improvements in our infrastructure, particularly our strategic road network.

Thirdly, red tape. I recently spent time in Brussels with the Commission First Vice President, Frans Timmermans. He is on a mission to persuade the EU to do less. Everything the EU does should be about supporting growth, jobs and industrial renewal.

Cutting Red Tape
Government action to scrap or reform red tape has reportedly saved firms some £10bn.

He has taken a lead on this from the British example of one in one out and, more latterly, one in two out. It remains to be seen how successful he will be.

Finally, we may or may not be about to engage in a referendum on Britain’s future in Europe.  Manufacturing businesses large and small could not be clearer that Britain’s continuing membership of the EU creates vital jobs and wealth.

That is why Britain must throw its full weight behind helping the EU deliver reform and a trade deal with the US, which would unlock billions of pounds worth of opportunities for British business.

So, Prime Minister, please continue to pull on the levers of growth, support investment and continue to drive economic recovery.