Coronavirus: UK manufacturers call for long-term economic recovery plan

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Data from a survey of 198 firms showed that over a third (36.8%) believe it will take longer than 12 months to return to normal trading. Photo: Getty

UK manufacturers are urging the government to introduce a “clear, long-term economic action plan” which provides business and industry with a consistent strategy to help them steer a path through COVID-19.

Make UK — which represents British manufacturers — has offered to help build a “robust” national coronavirus testing capacity  for mass regular testing in the UK.

Manufacturers are calling for a “clear exit strategy with collective agreement between industry, scientists and government” on when lockdown ends.

Additionally, a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system that “removes the time delays” that employers and their workers currently face.

The group says that by working with the government on testing, it will be easier to identify areas which need extra measures to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks and avoid future lockdowns.

It comes as Make UK is publishing its own three-point action plan which contains proposals for the immediate lockdown period, an exit strategy as well as a long term economic and industrial recovery.

Data from a survey of 198 firms showed that over a third (36.8%) believe it will take longer than 12 months to return to normal trading.

While 26.8% think it will take between six and 12 months. 26% of companies expect to be at full operating capacity at the start of 2021.

On Brexit, it’s urging to government to keep the borders open for goods, services and key freight routes protected and work with key trading partners.

“Looking forward, as well as securing a good deal with the EU which avoids the disastrous prospect for industry of leaving without one, government must set out a ‘ready to go’ strategy to fire up demand and help repair the economic damage,” Make UK said.

READ MORE: Almost one-fifth of SMEs believe they won’t survive second UK lockdown

As part of its “Prepare, Implement, Lead” action plan, it calls for the creation of an Industry Action Group which would feed weekly impact and intelligence data into the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBRA).

The weekly update would be on what level of support is needed to protect businesses, employees and communities.

Additionally, the report calls on the government to create jobs, by introducing an amnesty and National Insurance Contributions and other employment taxes.

As well as, establish a National Skills Taskforce to help redeploy highly skilled engineers and technical workers who are now unemployed. Finally, reform the Apprenticeship Levy to help arrest the sharp decline in new starts.

READ MORE: UK businesses in Tier 2 lockdowns get extra government support

Make UK chief executive, Stephen Phipson, said: “Government has already done a huge amount to support business but, as we move into second lockdown, manufacturers and wider industry needs a clear strategy that ensures we prepare, implement and lead from the start to prepare for the long-term.

“Businesses need as much certainty and stability as possible during these challenging times. Moreover they need consistency of support. The current piecemeal and ever-changing model of support is not giving firms sufficient time to plan and prepare. Consistent, longer-term support that mirrors our international competitors is now needed.”

To mitigate cash flow challenges and sustainable debt management, it’s asking the government to immediately waive business rates for the manufacturing sector and reduce the costs of business rates in the long run.

It also wants to see the introduction of financial instruments that allow manufacturing firms to manage their debt in a sustainable way.

Make UK’s plan to boost investment and innovation asks the government to double the research and development (R&D) tax credit and make it more accessible to SMEs.

While also extending the temporary increases in investment allowances due to finish at the end of 2020 and finally, the immediate roll out of 5G across all regions.

Watch: What is a no-deal Brexit and what are the potential consequences?