IPIA: industry now on 'stronger footing' with BEIS

Jo Francis
Monday, January 18, 2021

The government is looking to the printing industry as a barometer for manufacturing in general as the Covid-19 business situation develops, according to the latest feedback gleaned by the IPIA.

Perring: print put forward as case study due to complex supply chains
Perring: print put forward as case study due to complex supply chains

The IPIA, together with the BPIF and GPMA alliance of industry bodies has made numerous representations to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) about the impact of Covid-19 on the sector and the efficacy of various government support packages.

Back in September the GPMA wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak warning that as many as 3,000 print businesses would be unable to survive a prolonged period of Covid-19 restrictions.

IPIA general manager Brendan Perring said that regular weekly updates with BEIS had resulted in a “really good conversation” with BEIS last week.

“Their desire to work with the printing industry now is taking on a new even stronger footing for 2021,” he said.

“Because of how complex our supply chain is, if it works for the printing industry it’s probably going to work for other manufacturing sectors.”

Perring said that print had been put forward as case study along with three or four other industries.

“The industry is part of the consultation where they’re figuring out what grants work.”

He also said that BEIS had given assurances that there would not be a “cliff edge” when it came to the ending of support measures such as the Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £594m discretionary fund for local authorities to support businesses of all types at the beginning of the year, and Perring said that regional grant schemes were now in place for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and encouraged print bosses to investigate this fresh avenue of support.

“If you haven’t looked at those grants yet, first of all yes, they are applicable to you – they’re not just for hospitality and leisure. Printers do qualify for the four regional grant schemes,” Perring stated.

He said that although the schemes were something of a “postcode lottery” in terms of the degree of complexity in applying, it was worth persisting, with SME print firms receiving on average “£2,500-£3,000 a month”.

“Overall we’re seeing about 60% of applications being put through easily. The other 40% are a mixture of difficulty and we can help with guidance – you don’t have to be a member,” he added.

Perring said that BEIS had committed to at least a one quarter ‘glide path’ from recovery to the ending of support schemes.

“The message needs to be, don’t plan business decisions on the fact they will end in April and make redundancies in March. Because unless you can see that the economy has recovered and we’ve got control of Covid, these schemes are going to be renewed.”

Last week Kwasi Kwarteng, the newly-appointed secretary of state for business, sent an open letter to “everyone working in the UK’s manufacturing sectors”.

He reiterated the government’s position that “firms and tradespeople in manufacturing, including supply chains, should continue to operate during this national lockdown”.

Kwarteng stated: “It is vital that manufacturing continues and I want to reassure you that the government values the contribution your sector is making. Your work in areas such as aerospace, chemicals, automotive, rail, metals and steel, defence, shipbuilding and repair, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and many other manufacturing sectors as well as in delivering vital services, products or materials are critical elements of the economic recovery we are building and the fight against Covid-19.

“My ministerial team and I are in regular contact with industry leaders about the risks, issues and challenges you face.”

Kwarteng replaced Alok Sharma on 8 January. Sharma is now full-time president of the UN COP26 climate conference that will take place in Glasgow in November.

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