Businesses will keep politicians grounded in real world issues, conference hears

Photo show: Sir Ranulph Fiennes Bt OBE (front, centre) with a range of speakers at the Chamber’s annual economic conference 
Cov & Warks Chamber Conf

Business leaders have vowed to keep politicians grounded in the real world during the General Election campaign during a major conference in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Around 300 business and civic leaders attended the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Economic Conference at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel to hear from a range of regional and national speakers.

Dr Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, hosted the event which was sponsored by WCG and supported by Careers Hubs in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Dr Marshall said that the election campaign would see promises made on all sides of the political divide over the next few weeks but it was vital that prospective MPs heard what businesses really need to drive economic growth.

He said: “It’s vital that they know what the fundamentals are that are holding back business growth.

“There will big promises made but we know that businesses are practical and want to be able to grow. They want to be able to get the right people to do the right jobs in their business.

“Businesses will need help, post-Brexit in doing more trade overseas which will be vital to our economy.

“We know that companies want infrastructure improvements – physical and digital – that are vital to their growth.

“And companies across the country are telling us that up-front business costs are going up and that is a big brake on investment and, therefore, economic growth.

“These are the issues that matter to companies across Coventry and Warwickshire and politicians on all sides need to be aware of those during this campaign. We will make sure they are.”

The event was opened by Chamber president David Penn, who said Coventry and Warwickshire had held up well in ‘unprecedented politically uncertain times’.

That was followed by an economic panel including Steve Harcourt, of Prime Accountants Group; Sarah Pullen, of Reach plc; Mark Berrisford-Smith, of HSBC; and Jonathan Browning, of the CWLEP.

The event heard from Angela Joyce, of WCG, and Professor John Latham, of Coventry University, on the hot topic of skills which moved neatly into a speech from Clare Hutchinson, of the Careers and Enterprise Company, on the new Careers Hubs for Coventry and Warwickshire.

The topic of collaboration across Coventry and Warwickshire was a theme that ran through the whole event and shone through in an ‘interview with…’ session with Martin Reeves, chief executive, of Coventry City Council, and Monica Fogarty, chief executive of Warwickshire County Council.

The pair delved into the opportunities for the region – from smart mobility through to UK City of Culture 2021 and the Commonwealth Games in 2022, as well as 5G technology.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes Bt OBE had the business audience in awe with a keynote speech that highlighted some of his incredible achievements which led to him being known as the world’s greatest living explorer.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said that it had been the perfect close to the event.

She said: “It has been a fantastic conference that has highlighted that in uncertain times there are still opportunities.

“We as businesses can take positive actions to help ensure that our local economy can continue to grow and, as Sir Ranulph Fiennes put it, stay motivated.”