THE Autumn Budget is an opportunity to "address challenges" for manufacturers.

James Robinson, the head of manufacturing and engineering at PKF Francis Clark, looks at the importance of manufacturing in the UK economy and considers what manufacturers in the South West might like to hear from Phillip Hammond on October 29.

He says manufacturing is a "key" part of the UK economy, adding: "In the South West, alone, latest figures reveal that 247,000 people are employed in the manufacturing sector with output calculated at £14 billion annually.

"But it faces great challenges, not least Brexit. Manufacturers, especially those relying on complex supply chains, desperately need clarity about our future intentions.

“Another challenge is the skills shortage. The Royal Academy of Engineering predicts the UK will need to hire 265,000 skilled workers in the sector every year until 2024 in order to keep up with technological demand.

He said: “The Budget provides the perfect opportunity to start addressing this, perhaps through further incentives and tax breaks.”

He also said apprentice numbers are down and more needs to be done to attract the next generation into the sector.

Mr Robinson said: “There is some debate as to whether the Apprenticeship Levy is working as intended. Apprentice numbers are down and more needs to be done to attract the next generation to the exciting opportunities in the sector.

“And let’s not forget research and development (R&D). Manufacturing accounts for 69 per cent of business R&D and is vital to keeping the UK at the forefront of technological change. Measures to incentivise businesses to invest in future technology would be very welcome.”