Bring back manufacturing to revive our towns and cities

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From; Gerald Hodgson, Spennithorne, Leyburn.

YOU included an article (Yorkshire Post, January 23) on a depressing survey about job prospects in a number of Northern towns and cities.

These findings line up all too closely with statistics about educational under achievement. The principal raison d’être of all these towns, and the reason why they grew to the size they did, was manufacturing industries.

I am a great admirer of the energy and expertise needed to develop manufacturing industries, much more to be lauded in my view than, say, setting up a legal practice where the operation follows well established precedents.

In manufacturing, there is the need to develop processes, invent solutions and find markets in a way that many “knowledge-based” businesses would find daunting.

However, the fact is that even hi-tech manufacturing also creates numbers of jobs that can be done by people of relatively modest intellectual achievement. This is surely what is needed both to rebalance the economy, away from finance and services, and to provide productive work in the old industrial towns and cities with all the social benefits that would flow as a result.

The myth has been promoted that it is not possible to manufacture in this country because of relatively high wages.

I make two points to refute this.

First , we are still the seventh largest manufacturing economy in the world. Second, Germany and Japan, both high wage economies, have massive manufacturing sectors.

However, a closer look at our manufacturing sector shows up a massive weakness, namely that large scale manufacturing is almost all foreign-owned.

Think Tata Steel, BMW, VW, Nissan, Honda – the list goes on. I suggest that the financial institutions behind these brilliant businesses take the long view. Contrast this with the quick buck attitude of our financial institutions.

A precedent from the post-war years is worth thinking about. German industry was largely flattened by Bomber Command. After the war, it was re-established with new plant and new attitudes and quickly became a world beater again leaving many British industries trailing in its wake with old plant and buildings and dated attitudes from both management and workers.

Surely there is a great opportunity to revitalise the manufacturing towns and cities with hi-tech manufacturing industry, imaginative management and a flexible workforce?

You only have to look at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, the most productive car plant in Europe, to see what is possible.

I believe it is possible to regenerate British manufacturing industry to the great benefit of Yorkshire and the nation. It does however require a culture change. Manufacturing needs to be admired, not denigrated, and bright young people attracted to its ranks.

Secondly, and vitally, financial institutions must be developed to give long-term support.

Now that the nation owns major stakes in two massive banks, is this the opportunity to make it happen?

From: P and E Robinson, Barnoldswick.

AT last, somebody raising their voice against the Business Rate on empty commercial properties (Julian Sturdy MP, Yorkshire Post, January 13).

As owners of a small business, we are in complete agreement with Mr Sturdy. It is just another example of the Government moving the goalposts and changing the law to turn wise decisions taken in the past into millstones around our neck.

This “unfair tax” was changed again in April 2011 when the threshold for payment of rates on empty commercial properties was lowered to a rateable value of just £2,600. Not only is it unfair for all the reasons Mr Sturdy pointed out but what about cases where the owners want to move into bigger premises or even want to retire?