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Bashir Ali, Chairman, Leicester Textile & Manufacturer Federation

The largest forum of textile manufacturers and associated firms in Leicester rejects the British Retail Consortium’s move to introduce a licencing system with the support of APPG for Textile and Fashion to prevent unethical business and production practices at the manufacturing hub of Britain.

The association wrote a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel urging the government to overhaul the system to benefit the economy, workers and the civil society.

“We vehemently reject the call for a “Fit to Trade” licencing suggestion,” said Bashir Ali, chairman of the Leicester Textile and Manufacturers Federation, the largest forum for the sector in the city. “It flies in the face of our values of free enterprise and soft touch / intelligent regulation.”

“We feel the suggestion burdens companies with undue regulatory burdens at the expense of a minority of firms who have broken the law,” Mr Ali added. “ The APPG ‘s proposal as it stands would punish the whole industry in a recession when there are almost no other job opportunities in urban areas.

“The Economic Agencies tasked to support business and investment for all have largely ignored the needs of the urban enterprise communities.  The British Retail Consortium’s suggestion is a knee-jerk solution in wake of a media led debate, and the Consortium would have been better advised to have reached out to us long ago in a meaningful and coherent way.

“We would very much welcome your support for our proposal which gives the leadership to local manufactures to share and roll-out best practice in partnership with other textile manufacturing centres in the UK.”

The letter was in response to the letter written by Chair of the APPG for Textile and Fashions on 18th July 2020.

“LTMF comprises firms who are compliant with the law and have been visited by a plethora of regulators who have passed them following inspection,” said Mr Ali. “Between them they employ some fifteen thousand people and support significant supply chain of firms supplying fabrics, packaging and logistics.

“In our previous submission to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, we are unanimously committed to drive away the rogues from the industry. For firms needing support, we are calling for direct government intervention.  Successful and compliant firms want to adopt a self-regulatory regime to ensure the embedding of best practice for the employees, the environment and civic society.

“I would like to think that our views and concerns will carry equal weight with that of the Chair of the APPG Group. In our submission to the Prime Minister, we support a voluntary hallmark scheme – Made in Leicester – to encourage best practices in trade and employment practices. Those who meet our standards will have their right to use the brand in their dealing with multiple buyers, who will buy from this quality assurance.

The forum is calling to set up an Urban Manufacturing Strategy Taskforce for Leicester. LTMF says the new strategy can alleviate major issues created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The spike in Covid-19 infections, leading to an extended lockdown in Leicester and the identifications of clusters around key manufacturing has dented the City’s reputation and brutally affected the lives of urban employees,” the forum said in the letter to the prime minister. The issue of urban unemployment, underemployment and exploitation had already inflicted damage on Leicester’s reputation as an enterprising City attracting a diverse and thriving enterprise culture.

“The issue of low pay and exploitation has been a pretextual phenomenon that puts Leicester in the spotlight. The real Unique Selling Proposition has been its flexible and committed workforce. The plethora of “Low Pay Campaign”, Business Support and regulatory outreach in the past had limited successes. Most have disappeared due to public cuts.

Utilising an old adage- “Never let a crisis go to waste”, the current state of small bad practices in urban manufacturing and the human exploitation needs to be genuinely addressed. The long-term manifestation of what is best practice, equitably for the investors, manufacturers, employees, local and national regulators, has to be re-energised in a practical and palatable manner for all stakeholders.

“The Covid-19 watershed will have long term challenges to access to finance and support for the economic vibrancy of Leicester. In the end survival of local urban manufacturing itself may be in jeopardy. The recession is with us already. Added to this real slowdown in consumer confidence and large-scale unemployment will become a stark reality. Jobs, long term or be it seasonal, part-time or outsourced can only be created by a band of men and women of enterprise – with a healthy dose of courage, resilience and sheer determination to succeed at all odds.

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LTMF’s Uday Dholakia with Home Secretary Priti Patel (File)

“I ask if there is a genuine desire by the Government, the Leicestershire County Council, the City Mayor and the urban manufacturing communities and employees to take this unique opportunity to bring about a common purpose and build/create a road map for the City’s economic vibrancy,” the LTMF said in the letter. “This is the right time to formulate a practical, immediate and genuinely grounded Urban Manufacturing Strategy for Leicester.

“I ask if there is a genuine desire by the Government, the Leicestershire County Council, the City Mayor and the urban manufacturing communities and employees to take this unique opportunity to bring about a common purpose and build/create a road map for the City’s economic vibrancy. This is the right time to formulate a practical, immediate and genuinely grounded Urban Manufacturing Strategy for Leicester.

The forum said the government should take initiative to create a new strategy for Leicester to make it the manufacturing hub of Britain.

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SpringSummer 21 ready to wear fashion week in Paris

“The proposal is to formulate an Urban Manufacturing Strategy Taskforce for Leicester to write the road map for further enhancing best practice in manufacturing for all stakeholders,” the LTMF said. “To reach out to the government to seek funding for this via the Leicester and Leicestershire Economic Partnership. To appoint a Chair who can link national government with local government, local and national regulators, the manufacturers, and employees’ interests, in common purpose.

“The research, development and roll-out of the strategy should be based at a Business School of a University. This will enable a practical roll-out of the recommendations and discreet programmes to support up-skilling for entrepreneurs in manufacturing, key employees and regulators to create common collateral to build Leicester’s reputation for innovative, just-in-time manufacturing. The spin-off being opportunities for further inward investment, additional jobs, opportunities for internships and lifting the confidence and aspiration of young people to contemplate manufacturing as a career choice.”

“The success of the Taskforce will be measured by the outcomes for Leicester gained by the level of enthusiasm of all the stakeholders. Resulting in saved / expanded businesses, employment, investment, ethical buying and skilled workforce.”

READ MORE: Retailers, MPs, NGOs Seek Licencing System in Leicester

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