Sunday 23 April 2017

British economy facing ‘last chance saloon’

Alan Jones

THE leader of the UK's biggest business group today warned that the economy was in the "last chance saloon" unless the decline in jobs and growth is reversed.

John Cridland, director general of the CBI, said Government action was needed to boost investment, help firms trade overseas and improve the business environment.



He said he will be disappointed if Chancellor George Osborne does not respond to a series of CBI policy papers when he unveils his autumn statement on November 29.



Firms wanted to see infrastructure improved, including more toll roads, which Mr Cridland said would help unlock spending from private firms.



Speaking ahead of next week's CBI national conference in London, his first as director general, Mr Cridland said the Government had scored an "own goal" with plans to introduce a carbon floor price, which he warned could see firms switch production overseas.



Despite the criticism, Mr Cridland said the coalition had worked for business because firms agreed the most important priority was to press ahead with the deficit reduction, as well as reducing business taxes.



Mr Cridland, who was previously the deputy director general, said the CBI has enjoyed good access to ministers under the previous Labour governments, adding that he was "particularly pleased" with the present dialogue with the Treasury.



"That has not always been the case in past years," he said in an interview with the Press Association.



He denied there was any significance to the fact that no-one from Labour's front bench has been invited to address the conference, saying the event this year was focused on business issues.



The President of Turkey will address delegates in a sign of Mr Cridland's drive to encourage UK firms to trade more with emerging and developing countries.



After less than a year in the top post, Mr Cridland said he was already focusing on major issues for the coming 12 months, including education, Europe and aviation.



He will shift the focus from secondary to primary schools, where he believes efforts should begin to prepare youngsters for work, and said the UK should be planning to deal with the "new Europe" which will emerge when the eurozone crisis is over.



Switzerland could be used as a "model" for the UK, surrounded by eurozone countries, but having a much respected and dynamic economy, he said.



On aviation, Mr Cridland said there will have to be an airport expansion if the UK was to continue having a world-leading airport.



A Treasury spokesman said: "The Government is using every lever at its disposal to protect the UK economy and make sure that it remains a relative safe haven in the face of international instability and uncertainty.



"We are also tackling structural issues that will create the right conditions in the long term needed for strong and sustainable growth.



"Underpinning this is the Government's deficit reduction plan, which has placed the UK ahead of the curve, and helped to protect businesses and families by keeping interest rates low."



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