car manufacturing

UK manufacturers remain unconvinced by government’s ‘levelling up’ plans

Nearly a third of UK manufacturers have said they are “not yet convinced” by the government’s levelling up agenda and have seen no tangible benefits to their business, a new survey has found.

The survey of 225 firms was conducted by Make UK, which said regional mayors should be given more power and responsibility for levelling up funds to rebalance UK economy.

The theme of ‘levelling up’ was used as a key pledge in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto. In it, the Conservative Party pledged to “to use our post-Brexit freedoms to build prosperity and strengthen and level up every part of the country”.

But 30 per cent of those surveyed remain unhappy with the plan and are not seeing significant impacts for their businesses thus far.

This negative sentiment is particularly pronounced further from London and the South-East. The North-East, Yorkshire & the Humber, East Anglia, and the North-West were regions that were most dissatisfied with the government’s progress on levelling up.

However, some 37 per cent of manufacturers said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the government’s current levelling up agenda, down from 52 per cent two years ago, which indicates increasing positivity towards the approach.

British manufacturing is responsible for around £191bn of Britain’s output and employs around 2.7 million people.

One in five companies questioned also said that upgrading local transport infrastructure was key to levelling up in the regions.

Ben Fletcher, COO of Make UK, said: “Manufacturing has a proven track record of bringing huge amounts of inward investment, prosperity and well-paid jobs across the whole of the UK. Key to delivering this is for government to give us a much-needed National Manufacturing Plan to concentrate growth in those areas which need investment the most."

Adam Hawksbee, deputy director and head of levelling up at the think tank Onward, said: “Manufacturing matters. In almost every developed economy, manufacturing productivity growth has outpaced other sectors over the last two decades.

“In the UK, where our economic story since the 1980s has too often revolved around services, productivity in manufacturing has had almost double the quarterly growth rate of the economy as a whole. Ultimately, this productivity growth feeds through into higher wages and living standards.”

Last year, Make UK revealed that Britain’s manufacturers were are picking up pace faster than expected after taking a massive hit during the coronavirus lockdowns in 2020.

It later produced a roadmap to help UK manufacturers decarbonise their operations by 2050 as part of the UK’s net zero carbon commitments.

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