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Monday, 22 December 2014

British commerce bosses send wish-list to chancellor

The British Chambers of Commerce has sent a wish list to Chancellor George Osborne ahead of the autumn statement on Wednesday.

Rob Johnston photo
Rob Johnston

Its director general, John Longworth, has outlined measures the Chambers believe will stimulate investment and so promote growth in Britain’s fragile economy.

Proposals include:

  • A growth-voucher scheme giving 20,000 businesses with growth plans up to £5,000 each;
  • Export vouchers to help firms new to exporting, plus £100m a year to help established exporters seize opportunities in 18 key markets;
  • A £100m ‘unblocking fund’ for stalled infrastructure, such as road improvements, which are holding up housing and other construction projects;
  • Increase the building target of the Homes and Communities Agency by 100,000 houses;
  • One-off tax incentives for 2013-14 and 2014-15 to encourage businesses to commit to major capital investments;

Incentives for private investment in public infrastructure and a government-backed Infrastructure Investment Bank to invest in infrastructure over the long term.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “The economy appears to be starting to recover but, to ensure a robust and sustainable recovery, it’s fundamental that there’s a clear strategy to build confidence and enable business growth.”

The British Chambers estimates that its proposals would cost £3.8bn. But it supports the Government’s aim of reducing the fiscal deficit.

It therefore advocates cuts in public spending elsewhere, rather than more borrowing, to fund the programme.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is also calling on the Chancellor to stick to his deficit-reduction plan. And like the Chambers of Commerce, it wants the Government to do more to drive growth. Specifically, the CBI wants Mr Osborne to speed up plans to launch a business bank and its is warning against any reduction in pension tax relief.

Business Secretary Vince Cable announced in September that the Government would put £1bn into business bank to increase the amount of lending to businesses “within 18 months”.

CBI North West director Damian Waters, said: “The business bank needs to plug the finance gap for growing medium-sized businesses.”

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