The news that Tata Steel has confirmed it intends to sell its entire steel operations in the UK is another reminder of how the government’s ‘laissez-faire’ approach to manufacturing in the UK undermines our international competitiveness according to Black Country Chamber of Commerce CEO, Keith Bryan.

“High energy costs, a lack of skilled people, an unwillingness to use existing EU funds to improve productivity in core businesses and uncertainty surrounding the EU referendum are just four examples of how government focus on politics, rather than the sound economic health of our manufacturing sector, are undermining our global status.

“There are 160,000 jobs in the steel supply chain across the Midlands alone and whilst the government appears to value ‘market forces’ above all, other countries are openly supporting their manufacturing sectors and are gaining competitive advantage over us.

“We would like to see support for the sector to enable companies involved in metals to advance their technologies and achieve a worldwide prominence. We already provide components to the best automotive and aerospace companies in the world. We just need more incentives to invest in equipment and processes that will improve productivity and management practices that will help us lead the world.

“We need small changes that aim to specifically benefit our makers: UK Steel’s submission to government prior to the budget asked for the exclusion of installed plant and machinery, as part of the calculation for rateable values. The submission also asked for loans to energy efficiency and environmental schemes to make a real practical impact to the long term future of the sector and investment for a Catapult centre for the foundation industries, which underpin the UK’s industrial sectors, employing 500,000 people and accounting for 25 percent of the UK’s manufacturing base. 

“It is vital that we retain highly skilled and talented workers in the manufacturing sector and government support is required to ensure this can happen quickly and delivers where there is greatest need. Our global competitors would not hesitate on an issue like this. Manufacturing infrastructure takes years to develop and once lost it completely undermines our ability to respond to changes in global demand. The manufacturers of the UK expect well thought out strategy that positions us to take advantage of market changes. They expect our government to be at least as proud of its industrial heritage as the US, Germany and Italy are.”