Can the UK have a balanced economy?

A new YouGov poll of voters has discovered that at least 85% of them want to see a strong emphasis put on manufacturing by the next government believing that there will be greater economic security in a more balanced economy.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has also warned recently that the recovery could risk being stalled unless more is done to balance the economy away from a disproportionate reliance on consumer spending.

ONS figures show that manufacturing makes up just 10% of the UK economy despite chancellor George Osborne’s call for a “march of the makers” in the early days of the current coalition government.

But why are we surprised?  Industry, particularly but not only construction, regularly highlights difficulties in recruiting people with the right skills and this is the result of years of neglect.

Young people have not been encouraged to believe in, or aspire to careers using practical skills, in fact quite the opposite.

Inevitably, even if a shift of emphasis and a change of direction that encourages young people and others to value the training acquired through an apprenticeship or college as highly as a degree currently is, it will take some years before the skills imbalance can be corrected.

Then there is the question of whether manufacturing can ever compete in an export market that includes China, India and others, where production and wages costs are so much lower than in the UK.

And finally the question of funding where investors in particular for some years have disliked industries that tie up capital and have high fixed overheads, whether this is due to perceived risk or the long-term nature of such investments.

Is it already too late to revive an industrial base in the UK (or possibly England given today’s vote on Scottish Independence) and what kinds of goods can we manufacture in such a way as to be competitive?

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