UK manufacturers call for business rates and investment boost to kickstart recovery

·3-min read
Engineer operating angle grinder hand tools in manufacturing factory. Photo: Getty
Engineer operating angle grinder hand tools in manufacturing factory. Photo: Getty

Britain’s manufacturing industry has called for Business Rates to be waived or reduced in line with a boost to investment allowances to help kickstart an industrial recovery.

Make UK made the call on the back of the latest Manufacturing Monitor tracker, which shows that while the sector continues to stabilise, firms still see a long road ahead to any kind of normal trading conditions.

The survey revealed that over a third of companies see normal trading more than a year away, while 26.8% believe it will take between six and 12 months.

While those figures are slightly down from the last tracker in September the figures are holding steady suggesting manufacturers have a consistent view of the outlook for the next year and beyond.

Additionally, 24.3% of manufacturers said they were operating at full capacity with just over a third (35%) operating between three quarters and full. A look ahead shows a similar situation going into next year with 25.6% expecting to begin 2021 at full capacity.

Meanwhile, 49.2% of companies have made redundancies with a further 19% saying they plan to do so in the next six months, while 28.5% expect they might do.

Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a string of new and improved financial support measures, including grants for businesses hit by local lockdowns and more generous wage top ups for part-time workers under the Job Support Scheme.

The UK government has spent £200bn ($261bn) propping up the economy since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Over £40bn has gone towards paying furloughed staff’s wages.

READ MORE: Job Support Scheme could cost UK government £10bn

The survey also shows that 23.5% of companies are now stockpiling again ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period.

Of those who are not stockpiling a third (33.8%) said they didn’t see the need, a quarter (24.8%) said they couldn’t afford to because of COVID-19. Meanwhile, just 10.2% thought there would be a deal agreed by then.

Chief executive of Make UK, Stephen Phipson, said: “While the situation continues to stabilise it’s clear that there is a long road ahead to anything like normal trading conditions. This has major implications for companies and policymakers who are going to have to be fleet of foot in adapting to an ever changing environment.

“While Government has quite rightly made protecting jobs the number one priority to date, there is now an urgent need to help employers with their cashflow and measures to boost investment. Business Rates have long been a thorn in the side of companies and a disincentive to invest and now is the moment to provide a shot in the arm for companies by waiving or reducing them.”

The survey of 181 companies was carried out between 12 and 19 October. Make UK has been running its Manufacturing Monitor tracking survey since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The industry body, which represents 20,000 UK manufacturing companies of all sizes said that the need for investment now is vital after the Comprehensive Spending Review was cancelled and in the absence of any revamped industrial or economic strategy to boost growth.

“British manufacturers rose to the challenge earlier this year to help the country through a national crisis. They helped keep food and drink on supermarket shelves, adapted production to make vital PPE for our care homes and made sure hospitals had the medicines they needed during the pandemic. This data shows that manufacturing will be hit hard over the coming months unless there are further and sensible steps taken to smooth the path ahead,” Phipson added.

Watch: What is the Job Support Scheme and how has it changed?