TUC report recommends new body in Norfolk and Suffolk to manage improvements for manufacturing sector

General views around the Robinsons soft drinks factory at Carrow Works, Norwich
Robinsons Fruit Shoo

General views around the Robinsons soft drinks factory at Carrow Works, Norwich Robinsons Fruit Shoot production line. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2007

A new body to coordinate infrastructure investment and skills provisions could help reinvigorate Norfolk and Suffolk's declining manufacturing industry, according to a new report.

Trade union body TUC said the sector was being held back by 'serious issues' with transport and digital infrastructure and low paid, low quality jobs.

In a report examining the local manufacturing industry, it says a new organisation with input from local government, employers, unions and universities would meet the need for 'coordinated governance and decision making' and oversee future investment.

The report acknowledged the 'well regarded and effective' work of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which contributed to the report, but said it 'lacks funding and staff to fulfil the functions required' and would need to change to meet the criteria expected of the new regional body.

Entitled How to Deliver Great Jobs, the TUC report explored food and drink manufacturing and businesses associated with the coastal economy, including fishing, tourism, renewable energy and offshore oil and gas.

In food and drink production workers were said to be bearing the brunt of problems, with cheap labour depressing wages and increased pressure on staff as firms turn to redundancies to improve efficiency.

Last week, drinks manufacturer Britvic announced it was planning to close its Norwich factory, promoting site partner Unilever to review its own future in the city, putting more than 350 jobs at risk. Earlier this year Delphi Diesel Systems announced it would close its Sudbury factory, with the loss of more than 500 jobs.

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The report also cited concerns with business structures and governance in the industry, which had resulted in an 'erosion of conditions at work and workers' ability to bargain to improve them'.

It noted the importance of the counties' fishing industry, but said it was suffering from the use of port infrastructure by energy companies, shipping and tourism.

Infrastructure, particularly transport, was found to be a universal concern. The TUC said that due to the interdependent nature of many sectors in the counties, identifying and building links would be crucial to an effective industrial strategy.