“The new figures were worse than expected, even after making allowances for the adverse effect of January’s bad weather. There is now a serious possibility that GDP in the first quarter of this year will show a slowdown compared with the last quarter of 2009.
“A manufacturing recovery is crucial in order to secure the much-needed rebalancing of the UK economy towards exports and investment. The competitive sterling exchange rate provides manufacturing with the necessary advantage to stage a meaningful recovery.
“The sector must be better supported, access to finance improved, and steps taken that help firms to preserve their skills base – starting with the cancellation of the increase in NICs, planned for 2011. We expect the government to address these issues in the Budget.”