With only months to go until the 2015 General Election, political leaders and parties are ramping up their campaigning activity, giving us reasons why they would be the ideal party to clear our deficit, help businesses and strengthen our economy.
The Autumn Statement in December went some way to helping businesses, with the Chancellor announcing that Small Business Rate Relief has been extended to April 2016, fuel duty will remain frozen until May 2015, and a new £45 million package for exporters was unveiled. An extension of the Government’s Funding for Lending Scheme to increase bank lending to firms for another year was also promised.
However, details relating to some of these measures have been vague and the business community needs more direct action in 2015. We need pro-growth policies that go beyond the General Election and support the ambitions of businesses, which will bring wealth and prosperity to Northamptonshire. A rebalancing of the UK economy towards exports is vital to a sustained recovery and, while this £45 million funding for exporters is great news, we need more detail about how this funding will help our international traders and how they can access it.
The Budget in March will be the Government’s last chance before the May election to win voters, but also give businesses in the UK the support they need to grow, invest and upskill and recruit new staff, and I hope they use it wisely.
Our colleagues at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have issued ‘A Business Plan for Britain’, a manifesto which reflects the expectations of businesses across the UK, and the measures they require from any incoming government to help Britain fulfil its true economic potential. It identifies seven core aims - Retaining UK talent and developing the next generation, Growing Britain’s global trade potential, Strengthening Britain’s infrastructure to a world class standard, Driving down business costs and taxes, Supporting long-term business investment, Delivering a new settlement for Britain in Europe, Placing business at the heart of local growth – and suggests measures that make these aims achievable.
I agree with what the BCC is saying and lobbying for. We need a government that focuses on creating the best possible environment for growth and enterprise. The Business Plan for Britain is achievable if we – the incoming government, devolved administrations and local authorities - work together. Over the next Parliamentary term, we can become a more confident, enterprising, skilled trading nation. Indeed, our latest Quarterly Economic Survey results show that Northamptonshire firms are increasing exports, recruiting new staff and feeling confident about 2015.
I call upon the incoming government to think about businesses and consider the points in the BCC manifesto to lead Northamptonshire, and Britain as a whole, into a more prosperous future.