CBI head Carolyn Fairbairn has offered her reaction to Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this morning. The speech focused on a move away from deficit reduction towards more investment in housing and infrastructure while warning that the process of leaving the EU will leave businesses on a rollercoaster.
Fairbairn was broadly supportive of greater investment but called for more clarity on the government’s plans for supporting business through Brexit.
“With the clock now ticking on an EU exit, it’s good to see the Government set out the right chapter headings on how to boost confidence in our economy,” Fairbairn said. “We must now hear more on how government will work with business to build an inclusive, long-term industrial strategy. The Autumn Statement must move us several steps on to drive future investment and innovation across the country.
“The Government is right to adopt a more flexible approach to fiscal policy at this point, but it remains essential that public finances are sustainable over the economic cycle.
- On a new EU relationship
“The potential shortfall from a loss of EU funding has been a grave concern for many UK universities and businesses, so the news that the Government is extending its commitment to meet those funds will bring some relief.
“But the core challenge still remains: to get the best deal for the UK and keep the economy on track, the Government needs to set out a roadmap of engagement with businesses to truly understand the needs and concerns of businesses on the ground.
- On an extra £220 million support for tech innovation
“Making the transition from ground-breaking research to world-class products can be a real jump for some, so raising investment in how we achieve that will make that gap look a little smaller.
- On the National Infrastructure Commission
“It’s great to hear the Government reiterate its backing for the National Infrastructure Commission. It must be positioned as truly independent if the UK is to deliver a 21st century infrastructure throughout the country.”
‘Smaller builders need an extra boost’
Meanwhile the FSB has had its say on the Chancellor’s speech. The Federation chose to focus the support for small house builders, with Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), saying, “To solve the housing crisis, smaller builders need an extra boost. The £1 billion short term loans scheme is a shot in the arm for British small house builders, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. However, the FSB is calling for changes to the community infrastructure levy to reflect the higher costs of building small developments.
“We welcome the new guarantee for multi-year EU project funding after we have left the EU. FSB is keen to work with Government to make sure the funding continues to flow for projects key to British business, including infrastructure, access to finance and business support.
“Small businesses within the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine will be pleased by confirmation that the Chancellor will provide the political leadership for these projects. Over 40 per cent of our members want to see greater local control over spending, but also investment in digital infrastructure, inter-city transport and workplace skills. “The £120 million announced to boost tech transfers will help small business to commercialise the best of British science. FSB hopes this leads to a more innovative partnership between small businesses and universities. This will yield greater benefits for UK PLC and the local economies in which they are rooted.”