What should an incoming UK government do in its first 100 days?
Key figures in business talk about what a new government should prioritise on coming to power
Confronted with a new challenge, business people often set a target of the first 100 days in office to make an impact. So we asked a selection of business leaders what they would expect a new government to do in its first 100 days to address the issues of economic growth and stability that business prioritises.
Stability and promoting growth
It is clear that while the UK's economy has started to recover, that recovery is a fragile one, says Neeraj Kapur, CFO at Secure Trust Bank, and heavily dependent on market confidence. Clear and early statements of intent around maintaining the UK's position as an attractive place to do business should be priority one, he says. "I would expect any politician coming in to shore that [growth] up very quickly. There's an opportunity for ministers to say ‘growth is very fragile; I am going to put it on a proper footing so that it reaches 3-4% and not half a per cent'," says Kapur.
They should avoid the temptation to indulge grand gestures in their first 100 days, he says. Statements around breaking up the large banks or calls for an early referendum on the EU would have a destabilising effect, he argues.
Digital entrepreneur and investor Martin Leuw says that clarity on monetary policy and a stable business-friendly environment are all-important, and he suggests that what an incoming government most needs to do is get out of business's way.
"Business is challenging enough as it is, so what we want from government is clarity, a stable environment, allowing us to get on with creating the taxable profits and wealth that pay for manifesto promises. That means focused policies that contribute to stability in interest rates, exchange rates, access to labour markets."
Cutting red tape would be a feature of this new simplicity, he argues. "Make it easier for us to employ, invest in capital and export. A strong government should not need to intervene in a free market locally as we are global citizens."
Prioritise equity and investment
The Quoted Companies Alliance has a specific policy idea to promote growth. In its manifesto it suggests the incoming government appoint a minister for equity finance. The independent membership organisation also calls on the incoming government to address the disadvantages that are hampering small to mid-size quoted companies in particular.
"The business and financial sectors need to be more aligned with private investors and society as a whole," says Tim Ward, QCA's chief executive
This new role would have a specific remit, says Ward namely: setting in train enhanced tax incentives for equity providers and entrepreneurs; giving a distinct economic category to small and mid-size publicly-quoted companies; a simplification of the process of raising public equity; time out on new business regulation and the fostering of a long-term equity culture.
Others want to see a clearer policy agenda to promote manufacturing. UK chief economist at EY, Mark Gregory, says tax and other policy moves could be mobilised to rebalance the economy. Current policy around taxation focuses too much on headline corporation tax rates, which provide more support to services than industry. ‘If you are a manufacturer investing in capital projects, your investment won't show up in profits for some years," he says.
More effective for manufacturing companies would be a range of measures such as increasing the duration and value of capital allowances for business.
EY's manifesto for manufacturing also suggests: tax credits to incentivise training and apprenticeships; allowances to offset the high costs of premises and a building on existing research and development credits and Patent Box reliefs.
Moves to bolster manufacturing would need other non-tax measures, Gregory points out, such as engaging with educators, to ensure job-ready workers – and encouraging manufacturing has other advantages. "It would encourage activity in the regions and create more of an export base."
Lance Forman, managing director of a third-generation food business, Forman & Son, says one crucial measure that would solve a great deal of other problems would be to set a target for housebuilding and deregulate the planning system currently hampering development. "It has a lot of virtues: job creation, price, supply and knock-on effects for the economy," he says.
One of the biggest barriers, he believes, is the bureaucracy and regulation around planning. "I would set about taking out the regulation and giving planners the incentive to say yes to housebuilders, including looking at section 106 taxes that developers have to pay. Every way they turn they are taxed."
Remove help to buy, he goes on, " All that is doing is driving up prices. There is a very simple problem here – shortage of supply. There is no shortage of land, but the planning regulations as they stand are a barrier. Its' over regulated and it's got to stop."
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