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Blog Post By Brendan Perring

A call to arms

For a long time the manufacturing industry in the UK has been largely ignored by the government in favour of an emphasis on the financial and banking sector in London and the South East.

This ultimately began under Margaret Thatcher who turned away from manufacturing when she saw that foreign markets, such as South East Asia, were able to produce commodities cheaper and quicker, with workforces who knew very little about the living wage or human rights.

The result of this decision in the 1980’s saw the trade unions diminish to a shadow of their former glory, manufacturing plants close and by the 1990’s the rise of ‘the city’. While the Thatcher government may have felt they were planning for a globalised future, driven by numbers rather than hard graft, the policy was fundamentally flawed. An argument proved when in 2008 the total reliance on finance plunged the UK into the deepest recession since the 1930’s.

Now another Conservative government says it has learnt from its mistakes and so has publicly stated it is going to reinvest in manufacturing. Indeed, in his first speech David Cameron pledged that his Government would ‘give manufacturing another chance in this country’ by ‘getting the infrastructure right’.

What is needed to hold the Government to its promise is for small- to medium-sized manufacturing businesses, the majority of the signage sector, to shout out whether they are benefiting from policy, a mission I am happy to help with in SignLink.

As former minister of state for trade and investment, Lord Digby Jones has stressed in his recent speaking tour: “This country is only going to get itself out of this economic malaise if we trade our way out of it. If you ever analyse the first year out of a recession, it’s always the small business sector that pulls the country out; it is the sector that starts to employ first, the sector that grows wealth again first. The small business sector is key to economic recovery.”

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