A weakening in the pace of economic growth driven by East Midlands manufacturers should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers in 2016, according to a report published today (11 FEB).
East Midlands Chamber* has analysed the findings of its Quarterly Economic Surveys of the past two years to determine the current health of the region’s manufacturing and engineering sectors.
It found that the two-year period 2014 to 2015 saw a strengthening followed by a weakening in growth in the sector, although there were only a handful of quarters across all performance indicators where more firms reported a slowdown than a pick-up.
However, the report warned that if the trend were to continue in 2016, it would prompt serious concerns about the production sectors moving more towards a period of contraction than expansion – something that would seriously undermine the UK’s attempts to deliver balanced and sustainable growth.
Looking at individual areas of performance, the UK market remained more robust than international markets for manufacturers – particularly in the East Midlands – which will reflect, in part, slowdowns in key international markets and the strength of the Pound.
Both investment and recruitment levels have remained strong, as have the levels of capacity in the sector, which have remained relatively stable, but businesses are currently not as bullish about their future prospects as they were two years ago.
The Chamber will use the report to form the basis of discussions at its 2016 Manufacturing and Engineering Conference, which takes place at the Love Business expo, at Donington Park, from 8am today (11 Feb).
Guest speakers at the conference will include senior representatives from the Bank of England, HS2, Heathrow Airport, UK Trade & Investment, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and Oxalis Planning, the consultants behind Roxhill Developments’ proposed East Midlands Strategic Freight Rail Interchange.
There will also be two panel discussions, where local business leaders will discuss the link between investment and skills, and the best ways of connecting local manufacturers with opportunities across the Midlands, the UK and the rest of the world.
Chris Hobson, the Chamber’s Director of Policy, said: “The findings of this report suggest that much more needs to be done in terms of delivering a sustainable and balanced growth in the UK.
“In particular, there needs to be greater support for manufacturers that are looking to use a strong domestic base to grow overseas markets in difficult conditions, and for the sector as a whole to ensure the right skills and attributes in potential staff members are available as it continues to invest to grow.
“The East Midlands provides the UK with its spine of manufacturing and engineering. Developing and delivering policy that helps support conditions for these sectors to flourish in this region will ensure the country as a whole can also succeed.”
Representatives of more than 100 local businesses will attend the Chamber conference, with more than 3,000 delegates expected through the doors throughout the day for the main Love Business event.