UK manufacturing industry calls for furlough scheme to be extended

Manufacturers have urged the UK Government to extend its Covid-19 furlough scheme, warning that the country risks being left in the “slow lane” behind major competitors in recovering from the pandemic.

Industry association Make UK wants to see the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme continued beyond October for critical, strategic industrial sectors.

It highlighted the aerospace and automotive sectors as being particularly in need of an extension.

“These sectors are at the cutting edge of technologies which will be vital to growth sectors of the future employing many highly skilled, well paid people across the UK,” the organisation said.

“New analysis of official data by Make UK backs this up with the two sectors being the largest investors in research & development, accounting for more than two thirds of the total spend (36.4%). This is worth £5.9bn to the UK economy.”

Germany, Belgium, Australia and France have all extended or introduced new wage support schemes.

“The protection of key skills should be a strategic national priority as this will be the first building block in getting the economy up and running,” argued Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK.

The industry group’s latest Manufacturing Monitor survey provides some signs of an improvement in business conditions.

Almost a fifth of the 226 companies surveyed between 24 August and 1 September are now at full operating levels (17.6%) while a further 28% are running at between three quarters and full capacity.

By the start of next year, over a quarter (27%) expect to be at full capacity and a further third (35.4%) expect to be between three quarters and full capacity.