THE MEAN VIEW: Keep your promises, Boris. Brexit or not, business needs help

By Ian Mean
Ian Mean 2

As I write this, I am more than ever convinced that business needs to ready itself for a general election.

Barnstorming Boris Johnson talks a good talk but does anyone actually believe his no-deal threat?

Business finds itself facing down the same dark alley that it has done for the last three years with our politicians giving us little or no clarity for future decision making.

As a result, business investment has virtually ground to a halt which, in turn, is resulting in lower productivity.

Why the UK’s productivity is so low is a real puzzle, but I think we can safely say that technical investment, and especially investment in training and leadership, is one of the keys to unlocking that puzzle.

However, there are going to be few companies facing up to investing in more training for their people or capital investment in technology and plant until Brexit is sorted out one way or the other.

So the idea of government developing any immediate, clear business and industrial strategy seems to be for the birds.

I think we should, therefore, give our ministers a bit of a nudge about some of the issues we do need to sort — Brexit or not.

They also need to be reminded of their promises in this period of so many promises having been made to business.

The promise by Boris to revolutionise Broadband provision must not be forgotten.

In many parts of our region, it is lamentable to say the least.

I would point him to the Forest of Dean where the Forest Economic Partnership is just completing a special Broadband survey: How good, how fast?

A good idea for the rest of the country?

And what about the promise made during the prime ministerial race by Michael Gove to scrap business rates?

It is an iniquitous tax which gives little help to the firms that pay them.

And then there is the promise by Boris to create more apprenticeships.

That will not happen unless the apprenticeship levy is over-hauled and our further education colleges receive a big boost in their funding.

SMEs, the very firms that wish to expand which will create more productivity and more taxes for the Chancellor, are increasingly being denied opportunities to take on apprentices.

Why? They are often finding that the apprenticeship pot for small companies has run dry.

“Productivity is a real puzzle, but I think we can safely say that technical investment, and especially investment in training and leadership, is one of the keys to unlocking that puzzle”

Young apprentices are our future so we must ensure that the feet of ministers are held to the fire if we see them backtracking on their promises.

We have become used to some of our politicians being less than honest.

But when they make promises to business as they have done in the run-up to the Prime Minister’s election, they must keep them.

 

 

Ian Mean is Gloucestershire Director of Business West, and a former regional newspaper editor.

He is an honorary vice-president of Gloucestershire College and has an honorary Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Gloucestershire for supporting business in the county.

Ian is also chairman of the Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust Organ Donation Committee and a board member of Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, championing small and medium-sized businesses.