The head of manufacturing for the national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm, Crowe UK, is calling on the UK Government to appoint a dedicated “Minister for Manufacturing” to help it tackle the challenges of decarbonisation.
Currently, manufacturing falls under the remit of Minister for Industry, a role that covers a range of sectors including retail, hospitality and consumer goods, among others.
However, according to a report from after-market tech specialist SamsonVT, which surveyed 200 senior managers and decision makers working in UK manufacturing, as many as 71% of SMEs want a Minister focused on manufacturing.
Among the multiple shockwaves to hit the manufacturing sector, the report found that inflation was considered the biggest threat to business. Only nine percent of those questioned said they didn’t think a dedicated manufacturing Minister would make a difference to the current challenges.
“It is understandable that manufacturers want a minister that can both represent their interests at the highest level of government and take steps to mitigate their struggles,” said Sam Burgess, CEO at SamsonVT.
Commenting on his own call to government, Crowe partner Jonathan Dudley, who is adamant a dedicated Minister would help the UK achieve Net Zero, added: “Determining a long-term strategy, a Minister for Manufacturing could light the fuse of a new industrial revolution in the UK by aligning innovation, economic development and education to support nearly a million green jobs to help get this country making, building and adding value again.
“My call over the last 12 months to appoint a dedicated Minister also requires political and social will, especially given the significant economic challenges the industry is facing. Without the required direction to mobilise and deliver the necessary investment to take advantage of what we have on our doorstep could see the UK left behind in securing its low carbon future.”
According to Dudley, a Minister in such a post would need to have a say over the UK’s energy and transport policy but would have to approach it pragmatically.
“We need more electricity production to drive electric motors, but we also need to build the right infrastructure to secure the UK’s energy future.
“A dedicated Minister could kick-start domestic production of renewable energy by also supporting changes to planning laws which could encourage, for example, more solar farms on industrial and commercial roofs and public car parks to quadruple energy capacity.”
He also believes that a manufacturing Minister could be key in leading the charge in unlocking new onshore wind development, which continues to face a de-facto ban despite promise of a U-turn by PM Rishi Sunak, and says is holding back a potential 35GW from being supplied to the grid by 2035. Sunak has also recently come under pressure from industry to press ahead with the EPR reforms, which have seen similar delays.
Dudley also pointed out the ability for a focused Minister for Manufacturing to explore “untapped potential” in UK soil, which a recent report revealed may hold vital materials for the industry, removing the need for exports of such items.
“Sourcing products from the other side of the world is not ‘green’ nor sustainable in the longer term,” Dudley contended.
“If these resources prove viable, reshoring manufacturing will help create both market opportunities and jobs for future generations by having more control of supply chains, especially costs and timings for just-in-time manufacturing, and even prevent wasteful over buying and subsequent over production.”
Finally, the Crowe partner also flagged that such an appointment could help support the skills gap, equipping the current and future workforce with the necessary tools to deliver on a green economy.
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