Manufacturers call for government support

Lancashire's advanced manufacturers are seeking additional targeted support once the government's furlough scheme comes to an end next month.

The industry has been particularly badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, especially those connected with the aerospace sector which has resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs so far.

The calls for support are being led by Annette Weekes, managing director of Nelson-based PDS Engineering. Working with partners including Dr Sherry Kothari of the University of Lancaster's Health Tech Hub, she has formed the COVID-19 Manufacturing Cluster for Lancashire and South Cumbria. The collective has already amassed more than 80 members. 

Annette said: "On behalf of the manufacturers that make up the COVID19 Manufacturing Cluster, my own businesses, and those across Lancashire and the UK, I am calling for targeted support for SMEs to protect advanced manufacturing jobs which are the backbone of our region.

"Aerospace and automotive sectors are particularly badly affected and with the end of furlough looming and increased lockdown restrictions. We need our MPs and local and central government to work to protect business and jobs and avoid the catastrophic impact that widespread redundancies could have locally and the loss of capacity and capability to the UK."

Jon Hoyle, managing director of Pendle-based Bright Engineering, backed the message. He said: "Demand in many technology sectors is currently affected by the virus and small and medium sized companies need continued government support to navigate their way through the crisis.

"We need to avoid SMEs feeling that their only option is to make wholesale cuts to staffing levels. This would be disastrous for the economy, the area, jobs and skills in the longer-term."

Graham Ellis, head of manufacturing at BDO in the North West, said that the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit leaves the position of manufacturers all the more precarious. He said: "With a no-deal exit from the EU - and associated logistics, customs and cost implications - looking increasingly likely, British manufacturers will need to step up a gear in order to compete internationally, and this will require significant investment in productivity and digitalisation improvements.

"The government must be alive to this risk and provide the support required to help UK manufacturers through this transition period and beyond. Other countries - perhaps in particular Germany - do provide good examples of consistent long term support to their manufacturing sectors. The UK should look to adopt a similar approach."

The call for extra support closely follows that by Frank McKenna, who earlier outlined the need for further furlough support for the hospitality sector in particular.

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