The chancellor’s promise to rebalance the UK economy away from consumer spending towards manufacturing is an illusion that is doomed to fail unless the government adopts an active industrial strategy that supports British industry and steel warned the UK’s largest union Unite.
The warning comes as today’s (Tuesday 27 October) GDP figures show a contraction in manufacturing of 0.3 per cent and construction of 2.2 per cent in the last quarter, and ahead of a Commons select committee consideration of the action so far taken to address the problems facing UK steel.
With overall growth slowing to 0.5 per cent and household consumption contributing to no less than 82 per cent of all of Britain’s economic growth over the past four years, the union warned that the recovery was leaving manufacturing communities high and dry.
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “George Osborne’s promise to rebalance the economy is an illusion which is doomed to fail unless he and the government pursue an active industrial strategy.
“These figures highlight an unbalanced recovery which is based on debt -fuelled consumer spending and an over reliance on the services sector.
“Osborne’s rhetoric of recovery is becoming more and more divorced from reality as the UK’s steel industry heads for crisis and manufacturing and construction contracts.
“Laying the blame for these latest figures on global headwinds does not excuse the government from its responsibilities at home, and with a growing consensus embracing business leaders, trade unions, councils and trade bodies urging the government to do more, then we urge it to listen.
“When global conditions get tough then domestic governments must play their part by stepping up with an active industrial strategy that supports UK jobs and industry.
“With successive months of feeble figures it is blindingly clear that the government’s present polices are not working. There will be trouble ahead for our prime industries and their communities if the government does not change tack now.”
Unite has urged the government to push for action on energy prices and to prevent steel dumping by the Chinese government but it is calling for clear action on the domestic front too, including the requirement that contracts awarded to develop UK infrastructure projects must use UK workers and steel.
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.