By Maximilian Clarke

2012 will be a crucial year for the economy upon which the long-term prosperity of the United Kingdom will depend, the head of the British Chambers of Commerce has said.

But for the economy to thrive, the Chambers’ Director General John Longworth said, the UK must develop a more positive attitude towards business in which wealth is not resented, but celebrated.

“We are living in momentous times with slow but seismic shifts in the world economy. A slowdown across the eurozone is inevitable, but Britain need not suffer a similar fate. We simply cannot afford to compromise on economic performance. If we fall behind, the future could be very different for our children and grandchildren. Britain does have the potential to recover and make its way in the world. We have the talent, the energy, and the enterprise. All we need is an environment that puts business first. Boosting growth in our businesses will boost the economy and let Britain lead on the international stage.

“In the face of economic concerns, and the debt crisis in Europe, businesses across Britain, large and small, are busting a gut to find new markets and grow their firms. That’s why we all have to recognise that business is a force for good. It is at the centre of the economy, and it is only business that can create recovery and deliver all the good things we want, like education, healthcare and pensions.

“As the Chancellor rightly sticks to plans to reduce the deficit, there are still ways he can combat the threat of stagnation, within the existing spending envelope. Measures like the reversal of the punishing 5.6% rise in business rates due in April 2012, and a reduction in employer National Insurance Contributions could make a real difference in helping our firms to grow.

“But it’s more than just about the role business plays in our economy. Business is the foundation of local communities, creating the wealth that helps them thrive, providing hard working people with purpose and self respect, and employment and training for those that want to learn.

We must build an enterprise culture in Britain and help people to employ themselves so that one day they will employ others. Politicians have shown a level of resolve and determination to help business succeed this year. However, they have been nowhere near radical enough and have not been able to tackle the culture that deems business and wealth creation as negative.

“The government can restore UK business confidence. Facilitating the flow of credit to viable businesses, improving our planning system, and an overhaul of our infrastructure and skills system, will tackle the barriers to expansion too often cited by businesses.”

“Business is not just good for Britain, but is essential. 2012 could provide the tipping point for our economy. Not just because the next year is the nadir of a crisis, but because it provides an opportunity for lasting change. It could be a new start to an exciting future, the beginning of a renaissance in our fortunes based on enterprise, wealth creation and a new world view.”

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