• BCC Business Manifesto calls for wide-ranging action from the next UK government to achieve a ‘more confident and more enterprising Britain’

Today (Monday) the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is publishing its Business Manifesto – ‘A Business Plan for Britain’. The Manifesto reflects the expectations of business communities across the UK, and the measures they require from any incoming government in 2015 in order to help Britain fulfil its true economic potential.

The business group, which represents thousands of businesses of all sizes across the UK, has identified seven core themes that must be at the heart of any plan for government, to ensure Britain becomes ‘a more confident, more enterprising, and more skilled trading nation’. The BCC manifesto issues a clear call to all political parties to make these priorities for growth a reality.

RETAINING THE BEST UK TALENT AND DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION

Nurturing the business leaders of tomorrow, preparing young people for work and investing in the skills and prospects of those already in work are essential to the UK’s competitiveness.

This includes:

Introducing a Childcare Contribution Scheme that helps talented people stay in work – increased financial support for working parents to access childcare, thereby allowing more businesses to retain and develop staff while they start families.

  • Soaring childcare costs mean that many parents are forced to drop out of the workforce to look after their children. If this is not addressed by the next government, together with measures to boost the number of childcare places available, the UK could lose out on future talent that will help to drive economic growth.
  • All working parents with a child under school-age would be eligible, and would be given the funding upfront by government through a voucher scheme.
  • The primary earner would start paying back the government contribution at six per cent of their gross income above the income tax personal allowance (£10,000 for 2014-15). An interest rate of three per cent above inflation would be applied.

GROWING BRITAIN’S GLOBAL TRADE POTENTIAL

Removing barriers to trade, building international networks and investing in our export skills base will support UK businesses to take on the world

This includes:

Calling for a more ‘pro-business’ Home Office that actively supports British firms by reducing bureaucracy, costs and delays for foreign business visitors, skilled individuals seeking to work in the UK, and British nationals seeking to renew passports from overseas – therebyattracting the best talent and investment from overseas andhelping British firms link with customers, investors and business partners.

  • Unless the next government adopts migration and visa policies that support business and economic needs, the UK will lose out on business deals and the ability to attract the best talent and investment from overseas.
  • Introduce a ‘fast-track’ passport issuance scheme for British exporters and global traders overseas – enforcing a maximum turnaround of four weeks so Britain’s exporters can respond to business opportunities quickly.
  • The BCC is also calling for a more pragmatic approach to visa issuance for foreign students and skilled workers – to ensure the visa system addresses economic need, rather than shut out individuals who can make a real contribution to growth.

STRENGTHEN BRITAIN’S INFRASTRUCTURE TO REACH A WORLD CLASS STANDARD

A world-class economy needs world-class infrastructure, and businesses need certainty that crucial improvements will actually be delivered.

This includes:

An irreversible decision to build new aviation capacity following the publication of the Airports Commission’s report – so UK businesses have the international connectivity for passengers and goods to compete on the world stage.

  • Businesses across the UK need more aviation capacity and would like to see this delivered by expanding existing airports, rather than building entirely new ones. This is why we supported the Airports Commission’s recent decision to reject plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
  • But additional capacity should not be limited to just one airport, and any viable expansion option should be allowed to proceed.
  • However, if the Commission only gives the green light to one new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick, it is absolutely crucial that politicians then ensure it is delivered.
  • An aviation strategy should involve the strengthening of regional airports as well as airports in the South East. This will boost economic growth in the regions, help to relieve capacity shortages during extreme weather and provide business and holiday travel for people locally.

DRIVE DOWN BUSINESS COSTS AND TAXES

Simplifying the UK tax system and reducing the taxes firms pay even before they generate a profit, will boost businesses competitiveness, investment and jobs.

This includes:

Freezing business rates for all companies until 2017’s planned full revaluation of premises – plus a thorough review and reform of the broken business rates system by 2022 – UK firms face the highest business property tax bills in Europe, and the current system is at odds with the government’s ambition to have one of the most competitive tax systems in the G20.

  • Abandon up-rating of business rates until the 2017 revaluation, with HM Treasury working with all three devolved governments to ensure the freeze is UK-wide.
  • Commit to a thorough review of the broken business rates system to be completed in 2017 and implemented by 2022 that delivers an internationally competitive local tax system.


SUPPORT LONG-TERM BUSINESS INVESTMENT

Promoting access to finance and backing investors in dynamic businesses will support the rebalancing the UK economy so badly needs.

This includes:

Implementing the findings of the planned Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) market investigation into SME banking, and review restrictions for new SME finance providers – to promote competition in the sector and restore trust, transparency and relationships between lenders and businesses.

  • The planned CMA investigation must be wide-ranging and should be used as an opportunity to tackle the many concerns businesses have raised around banking and growth finance. Customer service, switching, lending and other business banking services must be examined as part of the review.
  • There must be a commitment to reviewing SME market restrictions for potential finance providers, such as easing capital limits for building societies and helping to reduce barriers for new crowd funders and providers of asset finance.

DELIVER A NEW SETTLEMENT FOR BRITAIN IN EUROPE

Making the economic opportunities of the European trading bloc work for business, and ensuring clear safeguards for Britain against unwanted further integration will be critical for our future success.

This includes:

Securing safeguards for the UK and other non-eurozone countries in future EU decision-making –so that as eurozone countries look to integrate further, a new architecture is put in place to ensure non-eurozone states are not disadvantaged in the future governance of the Single Market.

  • The UK should work with other non-eurozone countries in seeking assurances that decisions relating to the single market will continue to be made by all member-states.
  • The UK should lead efforts to complete the Single Market, in particular the single market in services. Compared to trade in goods, the internal market for services has barely got off the ground, much to the UK's economic disadvantage.

PLACE BUSINESS AT THE HEART OF LOCAL GROWTH

Giving businesses a greater say in local decision-making will boost the economies of our cities, towns, and counties.

This includes:

Guaranteeing a Business Ratepayers’ Vote on local economic strategy and how it is funded – including a vote on any proposed changes to local business taxation – to ensure that plans for an area’s future have the support and input of the whole of the business community.

  • Giving businesses a greater say in decision making at a local level would make local authorities more sensitive to business issues and costs, and ensure local economic plans are genuinely designed to boost business growth. 

Commenting, John Longworth BCC Director General said:

The decisions taken during the term of the next Parliament will have a profound impact on the UK’s ability to grow. We need a business plan for Britain, with governments across the UK focusing their attention on creating the best possible environment for growth and enterprise.

“Over the next five years, we can become a more confident, more enterprising, more skilled trading nation - or retreat into slow but very real decline. A Britain built for growth is a Britain where government decisions are relentlessly pro-growth; business policies are fit for the long term; local business communities are empowered; and the machinery of national and local government works with and for business.

“Our Business Plan for Britain is practical, pragmatic and achievable.  We call on the next UK government, the devolved administrations, and local authorities to work together and with us to make it a reality, and lead Britain into a more prosperous future.”

ASPIRATIONS FOR 2015-2020 

In its Business Plan for Britain, the BCC suggests that by maintaining a relentless focus on policies that deliver prosperity, the next government should set bold and measurable aspirations for 2020:

 

 

GDP

 

The fastest GDP growth rate in the G7 over the life of the next Parliament

 

Business Investment

 

The highest level of business investment as a % of GDP in the G7 by 2020

 

Employment

 

The lowest rate of youth unemployment in Europe by 2020

 

Trade

 

Double the value of exports to £1 trillion by 2020

 

Budget

 

Elimination of the UK’s budget deficit and a return to surplus by 2018/19

 

Taxation

 

Maintain the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20 and achieve  the lowest

business input taxes and charges by 2020

 

Infrastructure

 

Rise from 28th to top fifteen in World Economic Forum infrastructure rankings by 2020

 

Housing

 

Support private-sector construction rates of at least 200,000 new homes per annum over the life of the next Parliament

 

Education and

Skills

 

A workforce with literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills that rank in the top ten in the OECD Adult Skills Survey by 2020

 

Competitiveness

 

Ranked first amongst European countries for overall competitiveness by the World Economic Forum by 2020 (currently tenth overall and sixth amongst European countries)

 

  

Ends 

Notes to editors:

Please contact the press office for a full copy of the BCC Business Manifesto. 

John Longworth is available for interview from London.

Media contacts: 

Lisa Morrison – Head of Media

020 7654 5812 / 07717682221

Nick White – Press Officer

020 7654 5813 / 07825746812  

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) sits at the heart of a powerful network of 52 Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes and within all sectors. For more information visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk