Chamber Sees Red on Government Progress

Posted on July 24th, 2015

Chris Hobson
The Government has made a number of positive noises about supporting business since the election but there are some areas of serious concern that remain unaddressed, according to the region's Chamber of Commerce.

East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) has published a review of the Government's progress toward meeting business priorities during the first session of the 2015-2020 Parliament.

Prior to the election, the Chamber developed a business manifesto based on extensive survey work and consultation with Chamber members, which included 23 specific measures across five core policy areas, which the Chamber believes would create an economy for long-term success and support a vibrant and prosperous East Midlands.

The Chamber has matched the progress the Government has made against each measure during the first Parliamentary session, using the RAG (Red, Amber, Green) rating system, and has rated it as follows:

1) Place business at the centre of local growth

Some encouraging noises have been made so far about devolving powers to the East Midlands from Westminster and the onus is now on business to define the role it plays and which powers it would like to see devolved. Opening up public procurement to more SMEs remains a major priority and progress on this agenda, to date, has been slow.

RAG Rating: Red-Amber

2) Deliver on our long-term infrastructure needs

It is vital that the Government gets infrastructure right. A world-class economy needs world-class infrastructure. At present, we have nothing of the sort. Good infrastructure requires significant investment, so Government should take funding for infrastructure that boosts economic growth out of the national debt target, enabling it to maintain a credible commitment to sound public finances while increasing investment in infrastructure.

RAG Rating: Red

3) Fix the link between education and the world of work

While there have been some positive developments on this critically-important issue for business, these are yet to translate into tangible outcomes.

RAG Rating: Amber

4) Reduce the cost of doing business

This is another area where the Government makes all the right noises, but when it comes to introducing effective policy it remains to be seen whether it is having the desired impact for businesses on the ground. Crucially, policymakers need to be mindful of introducing crowd-pleasing policies which may well be vote-winners but don’t take into consideration their impacts on business.

RAG Rating: Red

5) Support East Midlands businesses to succeed overseas

It’s clear that this Government places great importance on boosting exports and the role that SMEs have to play in this, as a way to truly rebalance the UK’s economy. However, the trade gap still stands at nearly £400bn and until we see a radical shift in approach to boost exports, as highlighted by the Cole Commission, then we will not see a change in our performance.

RAG Rating – Amber

Chris Hobson, the Chamber’s Director of Policy, said: “Although the Government has made some positive noises and introduced some positive measures to support business, there has been too much tinkering around the edges rather than introducing bold and radical policies that will have a meaningful impact on businesses on the ground.

“We realise that it’s still early days for this Government, which came in on the back of five years of coalition. The East Midlands is a key driver of the ‘Midlands Engine for Growth’ and as things progress over the term of this Parliament, we’d hope to see continued engagement with the Chamber and its members and the subsequent introduction of policy that results in fewer reds than ambers and fewer ambers than greens in future progress reviews.

“Over the course of the last Parliament, businesses in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire demonstrated a robustness, tenacity and ambition that placed the East Midlands at the front of the pack in terms of driving economic growth and private sector job creation.

“The decisions taken by this Government will be instrumental in determining the future direction of that growth.

“Businesses are committed to ensuring the resource, knowledge and skills which exist in the East Midlands are utilised to full effect to deliver growth. In doing so, it is essential that their commitment is demonstrably reciprocated by Government.”

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