By Daniel Hunter
Following a year of stagnation, uncertainty, and continuing trade deficits, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) remains confident that business can make Britain dynamic again in 2013 and beyond, according to John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.
But only if the government delivers five changes to radically improve the business environment and deliver the confidence boost needed to kick-start growth.
Access to finance for growing companies
Last year the Chancellor re-confirmed his long-standing support for the creation of a dedicated British Business Bank. However businesses want reassurance that the Bank will live up to its billing as a major new player in British business growth, and they want a firm timetable in place for the Bank’s creation.
Britain’s business finance system is dysfunctional and restrains growth and there is an urgent need for a patient business lender to give innovative, new and growing businesses, as well as those businesses in recovery, access to the levels of finance they need to grow and evolve. 2013 must be the year that the Business Bank begins the journey from the drawing board to the real world — as well as the year that greater competition in the rest of the banking sector opens up real new opportunities for SMEs to access growth capital.
Green light the delivery of large-scale infrastructure projects
The government must take more radical measures to improve and maintain Britain’s business infrastructure. Public sector resources should be re-prioritised away from current spending towards jump-starting major infrastructure projects, which generate confidence in the short term, jobs in the medium term, and competitiveness in the long term. The Chancellor made an important start in 2012 by shifting £5bn from current spending to infrastructure spending — over the next year, the government must go even further.
A skills system that better equips young people for the world of work
The government must commit in 2013 to ensuring that every young person leaves formal education with the skills and behaviours required to successfully enter the world of work.
The spectre of long-term youth unemployment that Britain faces today is a direct result of an education and training system that is not properly focused on delivering the workforce Britain’s companies need. In order to create the growth companies of the future, we should fund high-end education, and science and engineering, and encourage greater entrepreneurship amongst the young. The government should also continue to work to boost apprenticeships, and make them aspirational again for both employees and prospective employers.
Further reductions in red tape that hamper business growth
The government has demonstrated a clear commitment to reducing the regulatory burden on business. However, as it stands, EU regulations are exempt from the ‘one in, two out’ regulatory reform process, and some Whitehall departments still believe that it is their right and duty to continue to introduce new burdens and costs.
Businesses want to see meaningful deregulation: the volume of bureaucracy hampering firms is still far too high and the government must continue to work to reduce burdensome red tape in 2013, particularly those stemming from the bubble of Brussels and the European Parliament, which act as a barrier to growth for many firms. The planning system must be freed up at the national and local levels, with recent reforms delivered to defeat the culture of NIMBYism that prevents many business projects getting off the ground.
More targeted support for firms looking to trade overseas
Businesses up and down the country are chomping at the bit to help drive an export-led recovery, and so the government must take concrete steps to supporting businesses who want to expand into new markets and to develop the production of goods and services we would otherwise import.
The government should in 2013 look to create an Export Voucher scheme that strengthens the exporting capabilities of businesses looking to exploit opportunities in fast-growing markets overseas, working closely with Chambers of Commerce, who are many companies’ first port of call when they start to trade globally.
“Urgency, scale, and delivery are the three things that the government must think about as we enter 2013. Business wants to see bold, once-in-a-century measures to drive recovery and enable British companies to go head-to-head with competitors across the world," John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said.
“We need a clear, agreed and long-term push to improve Britain’s business environment before we reach a point of no return — leading to decades of stagnation and further decline. Businesses around the country have the talent and innovation to deliver.
"The government must adopt a belt and braces approach: support those businesses that are looking to venture into new markets by improving access to finance and reducing red tape, and focus on the businessmen and women of the future, through a training system that increases the employability of the young. Otherwise it could be a case of too little, much too late.”
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