The groups which have suffered a decline during the war cover a wider range, and the fall is evenly distributed. Before the war, as the result of the industrial diversity, the Valley enjoyed a fair measure of prosperity. At no time does there appear to have been any degree of labour surplus, which was confirmed by the difficulty which new firms had in obtaining labour for war work.
The textile group specialise in high quality products for which there appeared to be fairly constant demand before the war. They specialise in fine cloth for uniforms, dress suitings, billiard-table cloth, tennis ball coverings etc, carpets and rugs, blankets, mattresses, flocks and shoddy, ready made clothing, hosiery, artificial silk goods, woollen goods in great variety, spinning and dyeing. They anticipated a demand for such products after the war.
With such a specialised market, any great expansion is unlikely, but there is no reason to suppoe that there will not be a fair post-war demand. Strachen's for example, which tend to specialise in navel uniforms, expect a fair market after the war.
The textile group seemed, on the whole, to be fairly optomistic as regards the return of their labour. They felt that there was a moral obligation on the part of war firms to release such labour, and they stressed the family tradition of the workers in the industry, and said this might well offset the higher financial inducements which the engineering firmst are able to offer. Winterbotham was quite categorical that his workers, both at Hoffmann's and still more in the Admiralty Stores, would much prefer to return. The Managing Director of Strachen's, pointed out that his released labout lived nearer to the Mill at Stroud than to Hoffmann's and Sperry's, and that the additional travelling would act as a further counter inducement to return after the war. Mr Todd of Marling and Evans, said that in his case the position was somewhat different, in that the workers of Marling and Evans lived near Stonehouse, and would have to pass Hoffmann's on the way, and while he thought the older workers would return, he seemed less certain about the younger. It was also pointed out that during the war no fresh women workers were being trained, and this would prove a real handicap, even if supplies of labour are available.
There seems some grounds for the view expressed that the textile firms might have to rely more on older workers after the war. This, of course, would imply that, for a long-term point of view, that the industry could be regarded as a dying one. This is very hypothetical, although Mr Warman (Clerk the Stroud RDC) thought that the post-war budern of taxation, if it remained on anything comparable to the present level, might prove a crippling burden on the millowners, all of whom are fairly small scale employers.
The position of the clothing firms, on the other hand is somewhat different. By the loss of their contracts, and their labour they appear to have been placed in a singularly unfavourable situation. They themselves are most embittered at their treatment. Mr Paul, of Hill Paul and Co, Cheapside, Stroud, for example, remarked that they had been skinned to the bone by the Ministry of Labour, and there was a good deal of local sympathy for them, not only among the textile manufacturers, but from the local authorities, while Mr Greenhill of the Labour Exchange at Stroud admitted their difficulties. Their post-war position appeared to be more uncertain than in the case of the textile group. They themselves stated that they had difficulty in obtainng raw materials, and were uncertain how for this position would be remedied after the war. So far as their labour is concerned, they were rather unhappy about their post-war prospects, and did not feel at all certain as to whether the labour which had been attracted into the engineering firms would return. They seemed to be afraid that the higher wages given in the engineering trades might prove a hinderance to the return of such labour.
The problems of the Admiralty Stores, and the influx of Government Departments appears to be a sore point in the district. Obviously, the Government Departments are only there for the duration, but the general view appears to be that, with the present number of evacuees and munition workers, their presence had put a severe strain on the essential services, including the public untilities.
The Admiralty Stores constitue a more difficult problem as their previous establishments in the dockyards have been blitzed. There is likley to be a strong navy for some years after the war, and therefore the possibility of continuing the “dispersal” policy. If those stores remained for 12 to 18 months after the end of hostilities, the firms whose premises, or part of whose premises, have been taken over for storage purposes would be seriously affected. Both Todd and Winterbotham pointed out that, assuming, as was reasonable, that after the war there was a stong demand for their products, accompanied by a release of labour, and the return of workers from the forces, if such firms could not get possesion of their factories and re-install their plant, they would be unable to meet the rising demandand would lose the floodtide of returning plenty. They would be unable to re-absorb the released labour, as they had promised, and such labour would become unemployed or would drift to other industries. This would permanently injure the textile group, and to that extent change the character of the valleys, either by depressing them and creating unemployment, or by expanding engineering at the expense of textiles. This would lead to increased industrialisation fo the valleys, which was very undesirable. These comparative possibilities would seem to depend upon the prospects for the engineering firms.
Mr Winterbotham thought that many munition factories which would be rendered redundant after the war, could suitably be taken over for Admiralty Stores, and was most insistant that the Government should devise a scheme for the removal of the stores, and the vacation of the premises as the war ends.
There is also the problem of some of the lesser industries Winterbotham thought that JB Worth – carpets, a branch of the main factory at Kidderminster, and now taken over as Admiralty Stores, would be unlikely to exist after the war, the Asbestos and fibre board manufacturers appeared to be doing well at the moment owing to the fact that galvanized iron was in short supply, but their future seems a little uncertain.
Transport Services appear to be just, but only just adequate, and according to Mr. Hillier of Sperry's the chief difficulty is a shortage of drivers.
Link to Part 4