Business Growth needs to be the main aim of Government

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

George Osborne got a number of things right in his Spending Round for 2015/16 this week. From a business perspective, longer-term commitments to infrastructure funding – including a clear nod to British Chamber of Commerce proposals for road maintenance and house-building – will yield both confidence and additional activity. So, too, will the Chancellor’s efforts to shield some business spending priorities from his well-honed axe, including export support, science and innovation, and defence procurement. A number of the things that featured on Chamber members’ wish lists, we are told, will be tackled in the near future – if not immediately.

Yet the Chancellor, and the political elite as a whole, also got some things very wrong. The overly partisan tone of his speech, and the debate which followed, was a sobering reminder of the fact that both sides of the House of Commons remain more focused on electoral advantage than the national interest. Questions remain about whether, and how fast, ministers’ promises of action and investment will materialise. But most importantly, the Spending Round represents a failure to more radically re-prioritise state spending on growth and competitiveness. Despite a clear effort to contain, if not slash, ballooning welfare and entitlement spending, the government’s failure to radically re-shape the state may be something Britain lives to regret in the second half of this decade.

For every win for national Chamber network lobbying – and there were many, from long-fought road improvements on the A14, A19, A303 or M20 – I cannot help but wonder what might have been if a truly ground-breaking course had been set with wealth creation, prosperity and competitiveness at its heart. Norfolk Chabmer was particularly disappointment that the A47 was not on the list for funding but we will continue to lobby for what we know the business community needs.

So we will continue the support BCC in their fight , led as of yesterday’s Annual General Meeting by a new BCC President, Nora Senior. You may have caught Nora’s first interview in this morning’s Telegraph, the first of many to come over the next two years. I know she will be a strong and effective champion for Chambers and business, just as her predecessor Martyn Pellew has been, and look forward to working with her. 

We are delighted that Nora will be one of our key note speakers at our Unlocking Potential Business Conference in Norwich on 22 November.

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