Manufacturing suffers another setback on Osborne’s watch

The UK is still over-reliant for growth on inflated house prices and low paid jobs.

The UK is still over-reliant for growth on inflated house prices and low paid jobs

This week’s figures from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) show another slowdown in UK manufacturing and again demonstrate that George Osborne’s recovery is built on less than solid foundations.

Four years on from Osborne’s promised ‘March of The Makers’, the re-balancing of the economy has proved to be a failure – with the UK still over-reliant for growth on inflated house prices and low paid, low-skilled jobs in the service sector.

The BCC survey warns that any economic recovery will stall unless the UK’s export performance improves; and experts are predicting that figures later this month from the ONS will show that economic growth slowed between July and September, following 0.9 per cent growth in the second quarter.

The BCC says that that manufacturing growth at the beginning of 2014 has petered out, with companies now running below full capacity and the strong pound making UK manufactured goods more expensive in the world economy.

The survey of 7,000 UK companies also found that manufacturers experienced a slowdown in sales growth at home and abroad in the third quarter.

A balance of +16 per cent of manufacturers reported a rise in export sales, down from +30 per cent in the second quarter. It was the lowest balance since the fourth quarter of 2012. Growth in domestic manufacturing orders is also down on the second quarter.

Unite has been campaigning for an industrial strategy based on investment in manufacturing, re-shoring of the supply chain, the development of a strategic investment bank, the procurement of UK manufactured goods, continued EU membership and a new skills eco system.

Next month Unite will launch its Charter for UK Engineering – ‘Engineering Excellence’. Labour needs to heed the call the charter makes for long-term investment in UK engineering and the creation of decent, skilled jobs to grow the economy.

And it is not just the unions arguing for a strong manufacturing strategy. In a recent poll by the Engineering Employers Federation, ordinary voters said they wanted to see a resurgence of UK industry. In the poll four out of five voters (85 per cent) said they wanted a government which promotes a stronger UK manufacturing base, with 62 per cent believing it will give the country more economic security.

That is why Labour must ensure that an interventionist manufacturing strategy, with decent employment at its heart, is spelt out in the party’s General Election manifesto.

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite

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