The British Plastics Federation briefed the Bank of England on business conditions in the UK's £19 billion plastics industry last week.
The BPF's Council, headed up by President, Mike Boswell, held its annual meeting in the Bank and met with Dr Ben Broadbent, Deputy Governor, Monetary Policy, and Peter Andrews, the Bank's Agent for Greater London.
During the wide-ranging discussion, the BPF reported the main features of its recently published Business Conditions Survey and provided detailed commentary from the key sectors constituting the industry. The Bank will use the information provided by the BPF in in its assessment and projections of the UK economy.
BPF representatives relayed the outstanding performance of the UK's automotive industry, which is expected to continue to grow over the next ten years and has some plants sporting productivity levels difficult to match anywhere in the world. They also reported on a real revival in the construction industry, albeit a cyclical sector with limited access to technical skills. Packaging had enjoyed mixed fortunes with overall growth last year evolving into a mixed picture in 2014 with consumer retail packaging flat but with significant growth in packaging for the DIY market. The healthcare sector was growing and parts of the general moulding industry were 'bursting at the seams'.
Federation representatives however, voiced their concerns at the behaviour of insurers who often took a generic approach without recognising the merits of individual cases. Exporters reported that they were now beginning to encounter some resistance in certain markets owing to the appreciation of sterling.
But they cited the availability of skilled staff as the major restraining factor on the industry's future development. Engineers were only to be found at a very high price, whilst given the shortage of people with suitable qualifications, they urged the need for an initiative to be undertaken to encourage bright young people employed in low wage sectors to enter the plastics industry to be trained up. The Business Conditions Survey also pointed to a growing skills gap.
BPF Director General, Philip Law, said: “The BPF is grateful to the Bank of England for the annual invitation to a dialogue. The Bank particularly values the fact that the breadth of the plastics industry can provide a bellwether to the health of the manufacturing economy as a whole.”