Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) Corrugated Sector is asking the Government to take action to reduce the amount of red tape that is strangling the UK manufacturing industry if it is serious about rebalancing the nation's economy.
CPI's Director General, David Workman, told a unique one-day summit held in Yorkshire on May 25 that measures to cut bureaucracy and streamline employment laws should be among the Government's priorities as it seeks to boost manufacturing and create growth in the UK.
Mr Workman was speaking on behalf of the CPI Corrugated Sector at a regional economic event at Leeds Metropolitan University organised by Dods, the leading political information, public affairs and policy communication specialist in the UK, in partnership with the All Party Yorkshire & Northern Lincolnshire Group, Local Government Yorkshire & Humber and Welcome to Yorkshire.
Regional industry figures, MPs and local government officials were in the invited audience to hear Mr Workman say that the combined effects of Government legislation, such as the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, Carbon Price Floor and Agency and Working Time directives, are having a detrimental effect on Energy Intensive Industries like papermaking which is the principal supplier to the Corrugated Packaging Sector.
He said: "UK manufacturing needs a bonfire of quangos and red tape rather than more legislation, that is not only adding bureaucracy, but sizeable costs to industries like Corrugated. The Agency Workers and Working Time directives will cost manufacturing over £5 billion so we're talking about legislation that could be counterproductive in terms of making UK manufacturing more efficient."
Easier access to finance is another key area for manufacturers looking to invest, and while Mr Workman acknowledges the steps the Government is taking on this issue, he believes that more pressure needs to be put on the banks so that they release the cash needed to help SMEs grow.
He commented: "Access to finance is a critical aspect for the industry so I will be looking to the government to follow-through some of the suggestions it has made to guarantee loans. There has been significant investment in the bigger UK corrugated plants recently, but my concern is about the smaller players who can't raise the finance. They are the organisations that need help."
Mr Workman also wants to see a Minister responsible for energy-intensive manufacturing. Currently there is no UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Minister or senior civil servant that even has the word 'manufacturing' in their title.
Summing up, Mr Workman said: "The corrugated packaging industry would welcome a strategy for manufacturing which puts maintenance and growth at its heart. This means creating a level playing field for these sectors so that they can compete in the global markets in which they operate. We also need to adopt the sort of pro manufacturing culture in all government departments that seem to exist in Germany."
CPI represents more than 90% of the UK Corrugated Packaging Industry, responsible for an aggregate turnover of around £1.2 billion, thousands of UK jobs and the best packaging recycling record in the country. The industry is proud to use and promote a sustainable and renewable material, nearly 80% of which is recycled, saving an area the size of Greater London from landfill every four months.
UK's Corrugated Packaging Sector protects around 75% of goods in transit and has led the way on things like lightweight packaging, design for shelf-ready packaging and space efficiency in trucks, meaning fewer lorries on the road.
It is at the forefront of innovation, is holding its own despite the current economic uncertainty and is in better shape than most of its counterparts on the European mainland. However, CPI believes that for a manufacturing-led economic revival to take hold in the UK, it is vital to raise, and then tackle, the issues that can put a brake on the drive towards sustainable growth.