UK business organisations put competition aside to unite in support of economy

Bank of England

The UK’s leading business organisations have united in an unprecedented move and as part of an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic to establish the Business Action Council (BAC) – a coalition that will streamline the voices of more than 500,000 businesses across every sector and region within the United Kingdom.

The British Chambers of CommerceBusiness in the Community (BITC)Confederation of British Industry (CBI)Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)Institute of Directors (IoD)Make UK (formerly The Manufacturers Organisation)ScaleUp Institute and Tech Nation are just some of the key organisations which have pledged to work together to help drive the UK through the current crisis.

Lord Bilimoria, Vice President of the CBI, said: “It is a historic moment to see organisations that sometimes see each other as competitors put aside differences and unite in the national interest. There are no simple answers to the myriad problems that the pandemic has created: entrepreneurship organisations will need to work together over the coming months to develop the bold and imaginative solutions necessary to help us recover as quickly as possible.”

In the wake of the Prime Minister’s call to build the biggest possible consensus from business in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the formation of the BAC marks the first time that business organisations have joined together at such a scale in the spirit of collective action.

The BAC’s primary mission is to act as an instrument that provides Government with a more coherent perspective from business. It is developing well-evidenced policy proposals that balance the competing demands of the wide range of businesses represented and provide expert, holistic advice to protect business resilience and restore confidence.

Martin McTague, Policy Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:  “Our immediate concern is making sure businesses can survive the initial shock caused by coronavirus, but our aims must be no less than creating the conditions for a sustainable recovery led by entrepreneurs.  Building a prosperous future for the UK is the challenge for the Business Action Council and we are pleased to play our part.”

The BAC’s work is currently informed by six specialist working groups, which are developing high-quality policy proposals and analysis to guide the Government’s response to the pandemic, which are endorsed by the entire Council. Policy proposals in five of the following areas have already been submitted to Government. The below lists all six working groups and more are being added:

  • Future of Finance: Providing assessment of the immediate impact on entrepreneurial businesses of COVID-19, and available remedies; assessment of the role finance will play in a post-COVID-19 ecosystem for such businesses; and strategic solutions in support of our entrepreneurs and their businesses in the medium to longer term
  • Employee Retention: Fine-tuning the government’s furlough scheme with the aim of protecting employment and enabling employees to return to work safely
  • Peer support: Providing solutions for how entrepreneurs pool experience to support one another through the COVID crisis and beyond
  • SME Tax: Creating a tax framework that puts SMEs at the heart of the recovery
  • Supporting High Growth Start Ups: Applying international best practice in supporting the early stages businesses that will play a leading role in the recovery to the UK context
  • Real Estate Reform: Protecting landlords, tenants and construction firms throughout business disruption and help them safely exit the lockdown

The lifespan of the BAC and its working groups will be determined by the progress made on addressing the policy requirements. The BAC is chaired by Maurice Ostro OBE.

Irene Graham OBE, CEO of ScaleUp Institute, said: “For a secure and sustainable national recovery to take effect innovative solutions will be needed to enable local economies, across the UK, to thrive and for businesses from all sectors and diverse backgrounds to scale up and grow. The ScaleUp Institute is pleased to play our part in the  Business Action Council.  Collaboration at all levels, and across all parts of the UK’s entrepreneurial community,  has never been more important.”

Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of Make UK, said: “We are delighted to work with our partners right across the business world to come together for the common good. The current crisis has created conditions that none of us could have foreseen in our lifetimes and the solutions we are going to need to survive and prosper are probably ones we would never have previously considered. Necessity is often the mother of invention and by coming together to share ideas will be the best way forward for businesses and entrepreneurs to help recover.”