Manufacturers facing tough year amid ‘faltering confidence’

File photo dated 06/03/02 of steel at a site near Wolverhampton. Photo: David Jones/PA Wire

File photo dated 06/03/02 of steel at a site near Wolverhampton. Photo: David Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Manufacturers face another tough year amid faltering confidence and risks outweighing opportunities, according to a new study.

The EEF said firms will have to contend with the ongoing global 'economic hangover' from 2015.

Two out of five of 286 companies polled said there would be risks in the year ahead, with pessimism particularly strong in larger firms.

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, said: 'The gloom that took the shine off UK manufacturing's performance in 2015 is set to continue into 2016. But, while expecting similar challenges as those seen last year, manufacturers are still planning for growth.

'There is particularly good news about the number looking to prioritise investment in technology and innovation and those looking to explore new export markets. These are positive and proactive steps.

'At the same time, however, tough conditions call for tough decisions - and restructuring and cost-cutting efforts are clearly high on the agenda for some.

'Last week's warning from the Chancellor about a dangerous cocktail of economic risks chimes with concerns reported by manufacturers.

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'With worries also extending to the competitiveness of the UK business environment, this is a wake-up-call and I would urge the Government to continue to work pro-actively with industry to mitigate risks and boost opportunities for our sector.'

Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: 'The EEF's survey is yet another wake-up call to the Government. We saw in the steel sector the consequences of not having an integrated strategy for manufacturing - the plant at Redcar closed and with it a national asset and over 2,000 skilled jobs were lost along with thousands more in the supply chain.

'Manufacturing is the greatest creator of wealth this country has. The Government needs to stop sloganeering and do some serious work to support manufacturers like governments in our competitor nations such as Germany do.'

A Business Department spokesperson said: 'Manufacturing contributed £170 billion to the UK economy in 2014, supporting 2.6 million jobs, and we are working closely with the sector to maximise productivity.

'We are doing this by cutting red tape by a further £10 billion, boosting skills by creating three million apprenticeships, supporting industry with an extra £1 billion in aerospace and automotive R&D and investing £6.9 billion in the UK's research infrastructure.'