The British Chambers of Commerce yesterday set out Britain's business priorities for the next government, in a comprehensive manifesto launched at their National Conference in London.
The manifesto, "Empowering Business", follows months of extensive consultation amongst the Chambers' 135,000 business members and challenges all political parties to meet 14 key business priorities focused on creating in Britain the best economy, regulatory environment, skilled people, transport infrastructure and business support.
The Chambers’ manifesto urges full commitment from all parties to tackle the rising tax and regulatory burden on business, including measures to simplify the tax system. Among their demands, the Chambers are pressing for cuts in business payroll compliance costs by at least 20 per cent over the next parliament, regulatory budgets for government departments, and firm commitment to the principle of “regulation as last resort”.
Launching the manifesto, Anthony Goldstone, President of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
"The most important priority for any government is to create the right conditions for business, our wealth creators, to thrive. We need to tackle the fundamentals - low skills levels, lack of business investment, a dilapidated transport infrastructure and the regulatory burden on small firms.
“Our manifesto offers a range of recommendations and solutions to the problems facing business and government, and we urge the political leaders to take heed, to commit and, in government, to deliver. “
Among their manifesto recommendations, the British Chambers of Commerce call on the next government to:
- Reduce the tax burden on business which, according to the OECD, as a percentage of GDP in the UK (14.5%) is much higher than many of UK’s key trading partners: USA (10.0%), Netherlands (11.5%), Ireland (11.7%) and Germany (12.8%).
- Reduce the cumulative burden of regulations on business, through the use of regulatory budgets for government departments
- Make tax simplification a priority, pursuing a tax simplification project similar to the tax law rewrite, but that focuses on the underlying tax system.
- Address priority skills issues, specifically by supporting the establishment of local and sectoral ‘employer learning networks’ for small and large firms to help each other to achieve their training needs.
- At least match the current commitment to invest £180bn in transport over the next ten years, with clearly identifiable priorities, timescales and responsibilities.
- Reform the planning system introducing greater flexibility into development plans and speeding up the planning process.
Looking ahead to the British Chambers of Commerce National Conference this week, at which the political leaders, including William Hague and Charles Kennedy, will speak, Chris Humphries, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Our National Conference offers a powerful platform for the politicians to show they mean business. While ‘too much regulation’ remains the constant message from our members, we will be asking all parties to submit their manifesto to a regulatory impact assessment to ensure the impact on business, whether positive or negative, is visible.”