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BCC response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech

Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

There is much in the Prime Minister’s ambition for the future of the United Kingdom which should be rightly applauded, but what businesses urgently need are answers to the problems they are facing in the here and now.

“Firms are dealing with a cumulative crisis in business conditions as supply chains crumple, prices soar, taxes rise and labour shortages hit new heights.

“The economic recovery is on shaky ground and if it stalls then the private sector investment and tax revenues that the Prime Minister wants to fuel his vision will be in short supply.

On Economic Transition

“Individual firms or sectors cannot make this adjustment alone. Business will fully support the move to a high wage/high skill economy, but this will not happen overnight. It requires government and business to come together to develop a strategy which deals with the current labour and supply challenges while meeting longer term ambitions.

“Right now, targeted immigration is a sensible way to address critical national skills shortages, give firms the breathing space to invest in skills and productivity and make the high-wage, high-skilled economy a reality.”

On Skills

The Prime Minister is right to recognise skills as being fundamental to levelling up and economic prosperity. A more agile skills system is key to boosting business investment in training and innovation. Local Skills Improvement Plans should be rapidly rolled-out to all parts of the county to give businesses a stronger voice in skills planning and ensure people can access the right training for in-demand and emerging skilled jobs.

We need much more flexibility for people to access training and qualifications, and in how firms can use the Apprenticeship Levy, to ensure everyone in the workplace is part of the skills transformation.

On levelling up

As a truly UK-wide network of 53 Accredited Chambers, levelling up is at the heart of the British Chambers of Commerce’s vision for a more prosperous UK. Crucially, and as the PM previously stated, levelling up cannot be seen as one part of the country against another. It’s about tackling blockages to prosperity in every community and giving every business and every person the same opportunities to grow.

In addition to skills the PM was right to highlight investment in infrastructure as being critical to the levelling up agenda. Road improvements and Northern Powerhouse rail is a good start, but companies everywhere are pressing for more and faster links, including the delivery of HS2 in full.

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