By Daniel Hunter

In the same week that official service sector figures indicated the strongest growth in more than two years, the CBI is today (Friday) championing the importance of Business and Professional Services to the UK economy in a new report: From strength to strength: An industrial strategy for business and professional services.

The report comes in advance of the Business and Professional Services Strategy being developed by the Government and business as part of the Industrial Strategy programme.

The sector — which comprises sub-sectors including legal services, audit, accountancy and consulting — represents 13% of both UK output and GDP, and doubled its exports between 2000 and 2010, now accounting for 14% of all UK exports.

“The Business and Professional Services sector is a major contributor to UK growth, and we must champion this strength as part of a coherent industrial strategy," Alex van Besouw, CBI Project Leader — Industrial Strategy, said.

“The UK is currently a world leader in fields including legal services, audit and consulting, but we need to be more aggressive in seeking out new opportunities at home and overseas, as well as addressing big challenges that could stymy long term growth, such as skills shortages and poor regulation.

“The business and professional services strategy provides a great opportunity for the Government and businesses to set out and deliver a comprehensive framework for future growth.”

The CBI is calling on the Government and businesses to work together to:

Position the sector to win more business at home and overseas by mapping expected demand for professional and business services from other key growth sectors, working with the sector to identify emerging market opportunities and influence global standards, working with foreign governments to remove barriers to entry for employees, supporting the development of strategies to maintain dialogue with non-retained overseas talent, championing the sector via the BIS Business and Professional Services Council, and making better use of Business and Professional Services firms to deliver public services

Ensure the sector has access to the right talent and skills for continued success by nurturing new talent through school leaver and higher apprenticeships programmes, working with sector skills councils, the education system and professional bodies to ensure they understand the sector’s skills needs, and taking action to address the perception that the UK is closed to international students

Ensure the UK business environment enables the sector to remain competitive by progressing with the corporation tax roadmap by delivering the 20p rate and committing to reduce the rate to 18p in the long-term, ensuring businesses can play a leading role at home and abroad to shape the debates on regulation and taxation, going further to reduce the amount and improve the quality of regulation on the sector, and urgently reviewing the visa process for short-term business travellers to ensure it’s quick and easy to apply.

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