'Back manufacturing' to level up UK, ministers told

The UK government is being urged by the nation's largest manufacturing organisation to devolve power to the regions to support a broad-based economic recovery.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising to "level up" Britain by giving less-developed areas outside SE England more growth opportunities, a report from the manufacturers' organisation Make UK and financial consultants RSM says investment in manufacturing would provide an essential boost to regional regeneration.The report, ‘Reviving and Rebalancing Regional Economies through Manufacturing’, says that 42 per cent of manufacturers surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s current 'levelling up' agenda.It says that metropolitan area mayors, LEPs (local enterprise partnerships) and local authorities should work more closely with manufacturers as they develop new regional industrial strategies.The survey also found that four in ten manufacturers wanted greater emphasis on local infrastructure projects over national ones to boost regional productivity.Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, said: "From Newcastle to Newquay, Chester to Chiswick or Brighton to Birmingham, every region, city and town has its own unique advantages. Capitalising on those differences to prosper will be important to effectively level up."But it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Capturing the manufacturing power of the individual regions requires a bespoke approach through the development of regional industrial strategies."Mr Phipson said the organisation's research found that businesses in the North wanted to see government prioritise the improvements to local road and rail transport connections in order to boost business growth, while, in the Midlands and East of England, a majority wanted local projects to take priority over national ones.In the South, he added, there was an emphasis on improved digital connectivity and a focus on sustainability to build a digital and green future."As working behaviours and business models have changed significantly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, levelling up must look beyond the traditional focus of physical infrastructure projects clustered around major cities alone," Mr Phipson said."For manufacturers, this means seeing real, tangible change in their regions. This requires quick, targeted action from government, manufacturers and stakeholders. Industry is calling on government to back manufacturing and to collectively revive and rebalancing our regional economies."He added that manufacturing had a proven track record of bringing "huge" amounts of inward investment, prosperity and well-paid jobs to the UK and that it was now vital for government and manufacturers to work together to build a strong industrial base to enable a post-pandemic recovery."Key to delivering this sustained economic growth is harnessing our Industrial Strategy and implementing it effectively at a local level through the development of strong local industrial strategies with industry, government and local stakeholders working together," he added."This in tandem with much needed boost to digital connectivity will allow companies from the whole of the UK to compete on the global stage."The report concluded that there were different challenges and opportunities and that these need be tackled in a coordinated, regional way "to drive the right changes through transport and digital infrastructures and ensuring skills meet the demands locally".ensuring skills meet the demands locally".Success and growth in the regions, the report added, would be achieved by giving local stakeholders, businesses and industry the power to work together to make decisions quickly, with access to available finance and supported by a fit-for-purpose government policy.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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