About 40 representatives of national regulatory and enforcement agencies are to meet in Leicester this Friday as the city looks to pilot ways of developing a skilled and ethical textiles industry that can be emulated across the UK.
Leicester’s City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby is hosting the event, which will bring together the full range of regulators involved with the textiles sector for the first meeting of its kind.
Sir Peter said: “Leicester has a long and proud history of textile manufacturing and we want to ensure it plays an important role in our future. Many retailers now want to source more garments from the UK, and this gives Leicester a great opportunity given the concentration and breadth of textiles manufacturing businesses we have here.
“However, we have to acknowledge there are unethical and illegal working practices in the industry, which are preventing retailers from buying more locally.
“This is not just an issue for Leicester, but a national one. However, in Leicester we want to make sure that we have the highest standards of employment; that workers are properly paid, well-trained, and work in safe environments. We want to support our factories to be the best they can, and to set an example that others can follow.
“This is a huge challenge and will require effective partnerships between the regulators, the retailers and the manufacturers. I hope that Friday’s event will be the start of fruitful relationships to the benefit of all concerned.”
Agencies attending include the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, UK Visa and Immigration, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, Trading Standards, ACAS, the police, Citizens Advice Bureau and The Insolvency Service.
Sir David Metcalf, Director of Labour Market Enforcement, who is developing a national Government strategy for enforcement across a range of sectors including textiles, will speak at the event. Senior representatives from New Look and ASOS will also attend the meeting.
Leicester City Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) have already prioritised the sector as one with the potential for future growth.
More than £2m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund has been invested in the sector, and the LLEP is currently discussing with the Government how to attract further support.