West Yorkshire on a mission ‘to be the best place to be a manufacturer in the UK’

Mayor Tracy Brabin has pledged to back the recommendations of her manufacturing task force which has set out its plan of action to strengthen the sector in West Yorkshire.

Brabin is also considering creating a West Yorkshire Manufacturing Week, in addition to existing sub-regional events in Leeds, Bradford, to help increase collaboration and benefit from presenting a united voice.

The region has a large manufacturing sector but it is thought that the lack of a global brand as a major employer – such as BAe in Lancashire or Jaguar Land Rover in the West Midlands – means its contribution can be underestimated.

West Yorkshire’s manufacturers employ 112,000 people in 5,600 business and are the driving force behind the £5bn of annual exports.

The Mayor’s Manufacturing Task Force has set out 14 recommendations grouped under four missions.

The group, chaired by AW Hainsworth chairman Andrew Wright, was set up to fulfil a manifesto pledge by Brabin when she was elected in May 2021.

“Our vision is to be the best place to be a manufacturer in the UK, bringing together our unrivalled strengths and heritage to lead the next industrial revolution and powering it with the next generation of talent,” said Wright.

After eight months of discussions and consultations, the task force has published its recommendations for what should be achieved by 2028.

It has focused on growth through productivity and innovation, net-zero initiatives, skills, and international trade.

Brabin told TheBusinessDesk.com that she intends to implement the task force’s recommendations and her next step will be “to prioritise next steps” with her team.

“I want all these recommendations to be carried out in full, which is the priority? How do we weave them into my 10 manifesto pledges. Obviously, we have a thing of an election in two years’ time.

“I want to make sure that we have a lot of these recommendations landed sooner than 2028, if possible. We are going to be working at speed.”

The mission statements do not have specific targets, other than to increase the number of manufacturers active in each area, albeit without setting out the existing levels.

The recommendations are a mix of tasks, including establish an export support scheme and establish a West Yorkshire productivity index, and increased engagement with various stakeholders, such as lobby the Department for Transport about electric vehicles, increase promotion of the region’s manufacturing assets, and focus on inspiring the next generation.

The report has not attempted to estimate how much funding will be required to achieve the four missions, but Brabin is confident there is financial support available that can support the activity required.

She said: “There is funding in various pots that have been already allocated – whether that’s around business or skills, or the Catalyst programme for export – and this helps me with my thinking of where and how to spend them.”

Brabin acknowledged that for many manufacturers struggling to recover from the impacts of Covid, Brexit, and global supply chain issues, addressing net zero targets could prove tough.

She said: “Listening to business, they’re saying climate emergency is so difficult to navigate.

“When you’ve just about got your head above water, it doesn’t feel like a priority. But hopefully, I can make the argument that if you do this, you’re more likely to survive, you’re going to be more resilient.

“We’ve got lots of opportunities to help in skills, innovation, and export. But [addressing the] climate emergency has to come from the business as well.”