After a year that included a number of wasted opportunities, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, calls on ministers to make 2016 a year of action, with the ultimate aim of putting the UK economy on a strong and more sustainable footing.
The leading business group’s calls for action start with an end to the prevarication that affected key business priorities during 2015, including a clear decision on airport expansion, real reform of business rates, delays to key infrastructure upgrades, and lack of progress in simplifying business tax.
John Longworth also warns that the UK’s future prosperity remains to be secured. He argues that the UK’s current economic performance remains overly dependent on debt and consumer spending — and that the government has yet to catalyse a much-needed shift toward exports, innovation and investment.
John Longworth’s New Year’s Message for 2016:
“At the start of 2016, neither ministers nor businesses can afford to be complacent. We may have solid levels of economic growth, but there are many clouds on the horizon that could ultimately push Britain into a new economic storm.
“It’s time to get real. The UK has been too reliant on consumer spending and asset transactions, driven by increased borrowing, for far too long, and this leaves the economy at risk. We have seen it before: when interest rates begin to rise, businesses and consumers are left exposed.
“The government has to stop wasting opportunities to radically reshape the UK economy. It must take tough, and sometimes unpopular, decisions in the national interest without falling back on the excuses of consultation, delay, and political expediency.
“Ministers wasted some big chances to deliver real change during 2015. A non-decision on airport capacity in the South East, a Spending Review that placed political priorities ahead of economic necessities, and a tax freeze for individuals that has resulted in more pressure being piled on businesses are just a few examples.
“2016 needs to be different, and it cannot be just about Europe. In or out, Britain’s fortunes will depend on UK government policy coupled with the efforts of the business community. There’s so much that needs to be done, from infrastructure and tax to skills and export support. 2016 must be a year of action, focused on preparing the British economy for the future. Building a true partnership between government and business, like so many other successful economies around the world, is absolutely essential.”