The priorities, contained in a business manifesto, Securing a Manufacturing Renaissance, launched by EEF, the manufacturers' organisation at its national conference, outline how the UK government must drive forward a programme for growth. To achieve this, says EEF, the government needs to punch its weight at the heart of a reformed European Union.
“While the last five years have been about recovery, the next five must be about delivering a better balanced economy,” says EEF chief executive, Terry Scuoler. “Some important groundwork has been laid and it is vital the next government builds on what has worked to date.
“Achieving a true rebalancing of the economy, however, was never going to be easy,” he adds. “It will involve tough choices and will not happen over the lifetime of a single Parliament. It is vital therefore the next government recognises this and sets lofty ambitions to provide the long-term certainty that is necessary for manufacturing businesses to invest recruit and grow in the UK.”
According to EEF, a lot still needs to be done to restore the public finances, improve productivity and secure real wage growth. In particular, the next UK government should set an ambition for measurable improvements in productivity relative to its global rivals, a step change in investment behaviour in the private sector and a marked improvement in the UK's trade performance.
EEF believes this can be achieved only by setting goals and performance measures to ensure spending decisions are delivering the best outcomes for business and the public. The table above summarises some of EEF's key targets for the next government to achieve by 2020.
EFF has also set the next government the following four ambitions with specific policy principles for each:
1. A more productive and flexible labour force
• An increase in the take-up of maths and science at key stages 4 and 5
• Reform of university funding to increase applications for STEM degrees
• Employers should be given control of Apprenticeship funding
• Industry should be given control of developing and retaining vocational qualifications
• A new “high-skill STEM” visa should be introduced
• Employment legislation reforms should be subject to rigorous cost benefit analysis
• The “Fit for Work” service should improve tax reliefs for private medical treatments which help employees to return to work
2. Improving infrastructure
• The establishment of a permanent, independent UK infrastructure authority
• Make investment in the strategic road network and broadband key priorities
• Alternative funding plans must be found for local and strategic road networks to ensure they are on a sustainable footing beyond 2020