New report recommends giving powers to regions

Published:  23 November, 2020

British manufacturing is one of the most agile sectors in the UK, accounting for £191 billion of output, 53% of Britain’s total exports and paying on average 13% more than the national norm. UK manufacturers sit at the heart of every region, already employing 2.7 million people, and are perfectly placed to reenergise and revive “left behind” local communities across the whole of the country.

Investment to support the growth of the UK manufacturing sector is an effective way to kick-start the revival of our regional economies, according to new research ‘Reviving and Rebalancing Regional Economies through Manufacturing’, published recently by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation and RSM, leading tax, audit and consultancy firm. Putting the manufacturing sector back at the heart of local communities is key to a truly effective levelling up agenda through a reenergised national Industrial Strategy and harnessing the power of regional stakeholders.

The COVID crisis showcased manufacturers as natural problem solvers, with many switching production overnight to produce vital medicines and PPE for the NHS. Nine out of ten manufacturers stayed open throughout the crisis, designing effective social distancing plans well before the masses and secured the production of vital food, drink, power and other necessities. This resilience, adaptability and innovation showcased the power of manufacturing which can be harnessed to help with economic regional turnaround.

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. Our 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. The Midlands and East of England want to see an emphasis on local projects over national projects. And the South requires 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. 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.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, the manufacturers organisation said:

“Manufacturing has a proven track record of bringing huge amounts of inward investment, prosperity and well paid jobs to communities the length and breadth of the UK. As we look to rebuild our economy after a year of unprecedented challenges, it is vital that Government and manufacturers focus together on building a strong industrial base to kick start the revival of our regional economies.

“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. 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.”

Mike Thornton, partner and head of manufacturing, RSM said:

“There has never been a more important time to re-evaluate and refocus the UK’s economic agenda to help power the recovery on a regional and national basis and capture new opportunities. Manufacturing is central to this. By its nature it constantly adapts, it creates strong local employment and drives wider development and investment in communities.

It is clear what the regions are telling us. There are different challenges and opportunities and these need be tackled in a coordinated, regional approach to drive the right changes through transport and digital infrastructures and ensuring skills meet the demands locally. Success and growth in the regions will be achieved by giving local stakeholders, businesses and industry the power to work together to make decision quickly, with access to available finance and supported by fit for purpose Government policy for manufacturing. This will help us kick-start the economic recovery on a regional and national basis now and secure it for the future.”

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