Industrial Strategy Press Release
For immediate release
GOVERNMENT’S NEW INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY
“LACKS THE HARD-EDGED COMMITMENTS REQUIRED”
The Prime Minister has today launched the government’s long-awaited Industrial Strategy. But will the proposals deliver the rebalancing of the economy and the country that is so badly needed?
The Industrial Communities Alliance is the all-party association of local authorities in Britain’s industrial areas. Last summer the Alliance launched its own proposals for an Industrial Strategy (insert link). The Alliance proposals are based on years of experience in working to rebuild the economies of older industrial areas across England, Scotland and Wales. The note (attached) looks at how the government’s proposals match up to what is needed.
Commenting on the strategy, Cllr Terry O’Neill, Leader of Warrington BC and National Chair of the Industrial Communities Alliance said:
“We welcome the government’s commitment to an Industrial Strategy but the proposals released today fall short of what is required. It has always been easy to make statements about the need to invest in skills, science and infrastructure but translating aspirations into actions is more challenging. What the industries in our areas really need are bolder, harder-edged commitments – on blocking unfair competition, on aid for investment and on lower energy costs for example.
“Britain’s industrial communities have been left behind for too long, as the Brexit vote demonstrated only too clearly, and the national economy is poorer as a result. We don’t need fine words or the usual platitudes about leading-edge technologies. We need practical actions to support the wide range of everyday industries that still struggle to make things and sell them to the rest of the world.
“In truth, a lot of what’s in the government’s strategy seems like ‘business as usual’ “.
For further comment and interviews contact the Alliance National Secretariat on 01226 200768 or (after hours) on 07503 180381 or 01909 723314
AN INITIAL ASSESSMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSALS
Last summer, the Industrial Communities Alliance put forward ten proposals (in bold below) for Industrial Strategy. How do the government’s proposals measure up?
1. Provide an economic context in which industry can prosper
There’s nothing in the government’s industrial strategy that promises the competitive exchange rate and low interest rates that are vital to international competitiveness, but at least the trends since the Brexit vote have been in the right direction.
2. Hold the line here: Britain should not abandon any more sectors of manufacturing production
You will search the government’s industrial strategy in vain for any commitment not to let any further sectors of UK manufacturing disappear down the drain. The strategy seems more interested in high-end science than the future of the more humdrum activities that still make up so much of manufacturing.
3. Welcome free trade – but only on the basis of fair competition
The government’s commitment to free trade is heartening but it comes without any promise to ensure that the competition is always fair. The UK steel industry, which faces the threat of vast quantities of surplus Chinese steel being dumped at below cost, should be worried.
4. Use public procurement as a tool to support British industry
The government is making all the right noises on this issue, as it has done for some while. But the mechanisms for matching fine words with real actions on the ground still seem hazy. Firmer commitments to buy British – something that should be possible in the wake of Brexit – are still missing.
5. Make sure the banks provide long-term finance to British industry
The government’s proposals are weak on this front and don’t extend much beyond further reviews. The big banks, which have a dreadful record in providing long-term finance for industry, are let off the hook – once again, you might say.
6. Exploit the scope to provide aid to industry
There is already scope for a much more adventurous approach to business support, even before Brexit, but the government remains hesitant to exploit the potential, especially to provide investment aid to businesses in less prosperous regions.
7. Target resources at the high-level technical skills that industry needs,
The government’s thinking seems to be along the right lines here, but in practice will technical education remain the Cinderella at the ball?
8. Invest more in the infrastructure schemes that really matter to industry.
How far is the government really going beyond what it has already promised – and launched – so many times before? The money earmarked for housing in the Autumn Statement is highlighted but this seems a very indirect way of supporting industry.
9. Support energy-intensive industries by reducing their bills
The commitment to keeping energy costs down is welcome though it is hard to see how new nuclear, in particular, can deliver this. It is energy-intensive industries like steel, ceramics, and heavy chemicals that are really in the firing line and there is nothing extra in the government’s proposals for them.
10. Harness Britain’s innovative strengths through effective R&D
The government is investing more in science – but will this just mean more labs in Oxford, Cambridge and London? A lot of the effort looks set to go into just a handful of fashionable sectors at the leading edge of technology. By themselves, these sectors can never be enough.
For immediate release