Government told to ‘fast forward’ infastructure projects as manufacturing falls

Britain’s biggest union, Unite, urged the government to ‘fast forward’ major infrastructure projects and urgently implement an industrial strategy to boost the economy in the wake of the Brexit vote as manufacturing slumped to its lowest in more than three years.

The closely-watched Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to levels last seen in February 2013 as it hit 48.2 in July, down from 52.4 in June and below economists’ expectation of 49.1.

A reading above 50 indicates growth. The survey also found that the rate of job losses across the sector was its second sharpest for almost three and a half years.

The result follows recent decisions by the Conservative government to delay the go-ahead to the £18 billion Hinkley Point C project and a third runway at Heathrow while a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the future of workers at Tata Steel.

Commenting Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Unite, which represents over 500,000 workers in manufacturing, said: “The government needs to take immediate action to support British manufacturing and the wider industry in the wake of the Brexit vote.

“Sitting on the sidelines and allowing thousands of decent jobs go to the wall and our manufacturing sector to be further hollowed out would be a grossly negligent act by the government.

“At a time of increasing economic uncertainty, these figures should serve as a wake-up call to the government and underline the need for ministers to start pursuing an active industrial strategy.

“Ministers now need to urgently deliver on Theresa May’s promise of an industrial strategy and should be looking to fast forward major infrastructure projects and ensure they are built with the maximum amount of British-made materials, such as steel.”