A DEBATE on the future of the UK’s manufacturing sector held in Leeds yesterday heard that greater co-operation and more support from banks and government are needed to help companies.
The Business of Manufacturing was organised by Marketing Leeds and featured a panel of business leaders.
The event, at Leeds Valley Park, was chaired by Financial Times manufacturing editor Peter Marsh and included a question and answer session.
The panel of senior business figures consisted of Mark Ridgeway, managing director of Group Rhodes, Steve Pateman, head of corporate and commercial banking at Santander UK, Juergen Maier, managing director of Siemens UK Industry Sector, James Averdieck, founder of Gu Chocolate Puddings, and the chief executive of Surgical Innovations, Graham Bowland.
Opening the event, Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan said: “We have the potential to grow if we can work together.
“The growth that will take place in Leeds is likely to be in the south and west of Leeds.
“Manufacturing is crucial to the Leeds city region economy.”
Mr Riordan said that Leeds Council was working with Manchester to promote the North and said work needs to be done to highlight our industrial potential.
He said: “If you are thriving in manufacturing today you are bloody good.
“We still have these stereotypes around about manufacturing, especially in the north of England.”
Mr Marsh told the audience: “Now is quite a good time to be talking about this as the British economy has been through a traumatic period.
“There is a sense that Britain could do better if it did better in manufacturing.”
He said that British manufacturing’s world position was still “pretty strong.”
A show of hands by the audience showed that most thought central government was doing too little to help manufacturing and most were undecided whether there was the same level of confidence in the sector as there had been at the start of the year.
Mark Ridgeway said that capital allowances for firms need to be addressed and a number of speakers said that finding the skilled staff was difficult. More women engineers were needed as well as good graduates and apprenticeships.
Mr Ridgeway said the lack of bank lending had been a problem. “There really has to be a change,” he said.
Juergen Maier said that British firms need to invest in new machinery, and boost research and development. Mr Bowland said that collaboration between businesses was “important.”
He added: “Manufacturing is a good place to be involved in.”