By Max Clarke
On his first day as CBI Director-General, John Cridland has urged the Government to put a ‘relentless focus’ on growth to give businesses the confidence to invest, export and create jobs.
Setting out his priorities as head of the UK’s leading business group, Mr Cridland praised the Government’s action on the deficit, but he said the next two years will be mission critical for the UK. He pointed to the need for a strategy for growth, and said the Government must use the forthcoming Budget as an opportunity to set out a clear vision for the UK economy, which incentivises growth.
Mr Cridland said:
"The Government gets top marks from business for its swift and decisive action on the deficit, but it has got to put its foot to the floor when it comes to a relentless focus on growth.
"The UK is already considered a good place to invest and do business. But business investment has been set back during the recession, and to create the jobs our economy needs, we must become not just a good but a great investment destination. This will require more certainty in our planning system, delivery of a longer-term strategy for business taxation, and new ways for companies to access finance."
Mr Cridland said his four top priorities for his period as CBI Director-General are: how to make the UK a more attractive place to invest; encouraging more firms to export; removing barriers to job creation; and continuing to tackle the fiscal deficit.
On attracting investment for energy and infrastructure projects, he said:
"The UK needs to attract over £100 billion investment on the energy markets in the coming decade, to ensure we can keep the lights on and move to a low-carbon economy. To achieve this, there is a complex set of levers including planning, licensing, waste disposal, pricing, market regulation and market support. If the UK Government doesn’t win investors’ confidence, there is a risk that money required to build new nuclear power stations and renewable energy will go abroad."
On bank lending, he said:
"When it comes to raising finance, I think the debate should move on a little from net lending targets. While many problems do remain and need to be tackled, we now need to look at a range of financial options for high-growth businesses, and especially mid-caps. This could involve giving innovative small and medium-sized companies better access to venture capital funds, or just being more forensic about where the gaps are in finance available to business."
On exports, he said:
"We have too many businesses not achieving their full potential on exports, and emerging markets are an untapped opportunity for ambitious businesses seeking to grow. But there are many other markets closer to home, eager to buy what the UK has to offer, and firms need targeted help to take the plunge. Targeting those businesses with high-growth potential, making trade credit finance available and creating a bespoke advisory framework around them could make a real impact here."
On employment and job creation, he said:
"Clarity from the Government on employment regulations is absolutely vital for companies to take on more people and create new jobs. I will be making it my mission as head of the CBI to shine a light on how some employment laws are holding back businesses, particularly small and medium-sized ones. Nearly two-thirds of all new jobs are created by smaller firms, but these companies are disproportionately affected by decisions such as the removal of the default retirement age and by our broken tribunals system."