Commenting on the Chancellor’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“After a period where many in business have felt that their concerns have not been centre stage in Westminster, firms will be heartened by the Chancellor’s forthright support for business as the foundation of both a strong economy and a strong society. It is right to champion the positive role that businesses play, day in and day out, across our communities – a role that has recently been overlooked by politicians of all colours.
“While Philip Hammond’s tone is encouraging, he must go further. His upcoming Budget must deliver bold action to boost investment and confidence at precisely the moment that our business communities need it most. As we move towards the UK’s departure from the EU, there’s never been a more important time for the government to pull out all the stops to get businesses investing and growing.”
On the Chancellor’s announcements on productivity and business support, Marshall said:
“The Chancellor’s focus on improving productivity is welcome, and Chambers stand ready to work with ministers to help more firms achieve their potential. The government must do its part too – and address the constraints that hold back far too many of our firms. Getting the basics right, from education and training to fixing roads and patchy broadband, would do more to help increase competitiveness and efficiency than just about any other measure.”
On the Chancellor’s announcements regarding apprenticeship reforms, Marshall said:
“We have spent months pushing ministers to make practical changes to the way the apprenticeship levy works, and these measures are an important step in the right direction. However, the review announced by the Chancellor must introduce greater flexibility to the apprenticeship system, to ensure that businesses of all sizes can find and train the workforce they need.
“The Chancellor is right to heed our calls for large firms to be allowed transfer unused levy funds down to smaller firms in their supply chain, helping more SMEs to access high quality apprenticeships and close the growing skills gap. The government should go even further in the long-term, and allow levy-payers to transfer 50% of their funds, so that more companies in complex supply chains can train their people and boost productivity.
“Ministers also need to urgently address the issues faced by smaller firms, not just by the bigger levy-payers. SMEs may not be paying the levy, but they have faced higher recruitment costs and great difficult accessing the right training in recent months. Ending the 10% co-investment that SMEs now have to pay would encourage more firms to take on and train new talent.”