By Jonathan Davies

Following the Chancellor George Osborne's speech at the Conservative Party conference, business leaders have had their say on the Conservatives' last conference before next year's general election.

As well as recognising the need to cut the deficit, George Osborne pledged to tackle youth unemployment, establish Britain as a business powerhouse, freeze benefits paid to people of working age for two years and cut the so-called pensions 'Death Tax'.

Reacting to the Chancellor's speech, John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

"The economic recovery is strengthening, but it's certainly not job done, so businesses will be buoyed to hear the Chancellor commit to an economic plan for the long-term. Investment in infrastructure, like runways, and in skills are the right choices to boost growth across the country.

"The Chancellor should be credited for sticking to his guns on deficit reduction but we shouldn't underestimate how far we have to go. Further deficit reduction must include welfare reform, as the Chancellor said.

"We know that being out of work can scar young people for the rest of their lives, so we must do far more to help them into work.

"Young people must have different options open to them and business stands ready to do more through training and apprenticeships.

“Setting low and fair business taxes is the right goal for the UK. The CBI supports transparency on tax and will work with the Government to ensure that tax rules are fair on both sides. Companies will always want to operate within the rules.

On changes to inherited pensions funds:

"This is a welcome change which will encourage people to save more, and with greater flexibility, for their retirement.

“There is a real issue in the UK with people not saving enough for retirement, especially as we are now enjoying longer lives. The Government should also commit to keeping the higher rate of tax relief on pensions, as we try to rebuild our savings culture.

"Getting Britain building is critical to our future. The Chancellor's announcement to build 100,000 more homes for first time buyers and to extend Help to Buy is a good start, but we need to be building at least 240,000 homes a year to meet demand.

"This action needs to go hand-in-hand with further long-term measures that boost supply and help for all those who want to get on the housing ladder, like getting going on with new garden cities and streamlining the planning system."

John Allan, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“We welcome Chancellor’s strong sense of ambition and aspiration for the UK to be the best place to do business in the world, and for his clear backing for small businesses. His speech echoed many of our Manifesto’s proposals, with clear commitments to lower business taxes, and to boost growth outside London and the South East through investment in much-needed infrastructure.

“We support the current Government’s focus on job creation, where part of the picture is an emphasis on apprenticeships. We want to see more young people taking up apprenticeships. The challenge for policy makers will be to boost the number of apprentices while maintaining the quality of training.”

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:

“At the heart of the Chancellor's speech was a welcome recognition of the centrality of business and enterprise to every other area of government activity.

“This was particularly clear in the celebration of the role played by businesses, large or small, in creating jobs and generating prosperity. Continuing reform to the welfare system goes hand in hand with long term job creation.

“The Chancellor made clear his commitment to a low tax economy, which will ensure that the UK becomes even more competitive and business friendly. However, he was equally clear that growth in the future must reach every corner of the country. In a survey of IoD members immediately after the Scottish referendum, support for economic devolution to our regions and cities was overwhelming, and to achieve the stated objective of closing the North-South gap, the government must recognise this new appetite for change.

“The IoD has long maintained that if you believe in free markets, you have to recognise when the system breaks down or trust in it is eroded. Tackling the perception that multinationals get a sweeter deal than the vast majority of businesses is the right thing to do, but can only be effective when combined with a radical simplification of the UK's sprawling tax code.

“Amidst all of this, a continuing focus on fiscal restraint and deficit reduction will reassure businesses that the government recognises an old truth, that sound public finances constitute the bedrock on which all businesses are built.”

Prime Minister David Cameron is due to deliver his keynote speech on Wednesday 1 October.

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