THE IMPORTANCE of manufacturing to Keighley has been highlighted by a new top-level report by Bradford Council regeneration officers.

The briefing note for district councillors revealed that manufacturing remained the largest industrial sector in the town, employing 3,500 people and accounting for one in every five jobs.

Jobs in the sector grew by around 400 in just 12 months, twice that of the whole district and despite a nationwide fall in manufacturing jobs.

Engineering alone accounted for 1,300 of the jobs, in fields including metal fabrication, machinery, electronic and electrical, while textiles accounted for 500.

But the report warned that average workplace earnings in Keighley were below district, regional and national levels.

Council officers said this indicated low productivity by Keighley companies.

The report, written at the request of the council’s Regeneration and Economy Scrutiny sub-committee, provides an up-to-the-minute overview of Keighley’s economy.

It highlighted expert forecasts that Keighley’s economy would grow 7.5 per cent by 2025, seeing the creation of 1,300 new jobs.

The report’s findings have been welcomed by local politicians who sit on the sub-committee.

Chairman Cllr Farley, who represents Keighley West ward, said he was surprised to learn that manufacturing still played such a big part in the local economy.

He said: “It is clearly vital for Keighley. Manufacturing jobs are very important to families across Keighley and Airedale and if they go it will put people in serious hardship.”

Cllr Farley said he was glad that Keighley College was acting to tackle skills shortages identified by the report.

Committee member Andrew Mallinson, who represents Craven ward, said that although manufacturing was a constant benefit to Keighley, there was little evidence of training being provided locally or schools promoting manufacturing.

He added: “This sector is probably viewed by parents as the ‘dirty jobs’ where their children will come home covered in grease and oil, but manufacturing covers a whole range of items from furniture to double glazed windows, all with very important skills to be learned.”

The briefing note stated that there were 17,400 jobs in 1,630 businesses across Keighley, almost four out of five of them employing less than 10 people.

The service sector accounted for 77 per cent of all employment. Retail employed 2,300 people, closely followed by health and education.

The number of jobs fell by 900 between 2009 and 2014, but increased by 350 the following year alone. Keighley gained 45 new businesses between 2010 and 2014.