Economic Progression: Manufacturing has had the longest period of expansion in 50 years. The economy has grown for five consecutive years, albeit in a sluggish fashion, and exceeded expectations in 2017.
House Building: Is this really working? Developers still claim that attaining planning permission is a nightmare. The government in turn has accused developers of sitting on land rather than building. Are the right types of housing being built? Are they going to be taken up with consumer confidence and spending so low? Unfortunately, this situation look like it will keep construction in the doldrums.
Apprenticeship Levy: Addressing the skills shortage is still a big issue. Recognition that the apprenticeships levy isn’t working and efforts to correct it are welcome. We hope the £80m of funding to help SMEs engage with apprentices will further help the supply of skilled labour.
Digital Connectivity: Good news on the first allocation of funding to improve digital connectivity across the UK. This is still too late for much of our industry who had to privately invest in leased lines to make up for the national shortfall. The jump to invest in 5G is good news, although yet again, we are not at the forefront of this technology.
Modern Industrial Strategy: Hammond highlighted that this strategy is leading to the biggest increase in public R&D spending for four decades. What this means and where the money will be spent is not yet known, which won’t help to improve the damp response the strategy initially received. More effort is required here to deliver better support for industry. The government also needs to ensure that SMEs are equally supported by this fund.
As previously highlighted, UK Manufacturing is on the up. This has up until now been largely supported by a healthy export market. Heading into FQ1, this has been projected to match up with a more robust UK market. However with the construction sector still lagging and consumer confidence so low, is this really likely for our sector? We’ll see.
The Modern Industrial Strategy is still lagging behind the speed of development on the ground. More speed and action is needed here from the government to ensure we can get a lead on the rest of the world. Special emphasis should be placed on connectivity and 4IR as this will be where the UK can gain back a real competitive edge on the global market.
FQ1 here we come!