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POLITICS


No other issue has dominated the UK’s political agenda over the past three-and-a- half years more than Brexit, seemingly to the exclusion of everything else. It has divided parties, people, businesses


and households across the country to the point of distraction. Although Brexit was a main focal point


during the recent general election campaign, we did also get a glimpse of some of the other issues that have been effecting the UK since the EU Referendum. Now, with the election having taken place,


we can hopefully finally move on from the political paralysis that Brexit has caused and turn our attention to fixing some of the fundamentals that will help create an environment in which British businesses can flourish and create the jobs, wealth and prosperity to enable people and communities to thrive. After three-and-a-half years of dither and


delay, the message from business is clear. A new Government must take decisive steps to improve the business environment. Throughout the political stasis we’ve


experienced, businesses have still been sticking to the task in hand and doing what they do best – innovating, employing people and driving growth. They’ve been paying their taxes diligently


and taking every opportunity to raise the profile of Brand Britain abroad. All they ask of the incoming administration


is to reignite business confidence and investment, which will pay lasting dividends for our communities and the economy. We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure


to fray, for the gaping holes in our training and skills system to go unfilled, or for governments to pile on new costs that stop firms from investing in growth. Just over a year ago, the Chamber took a


deputation of member businesses down to the House of Commons to present a list of asks to Parliamentarians. Split into four key areas, we believe our


report, Building a Great Future: A Manifesto for Business Growth, sets out a sensible, sustainable plan to create a post-Brexit economy with business at its core, to create prosperity for everyone...


CONNECT US • End the current lottery that surrounds broadband service levels and an approach to broadband delivery that disadvantages businesses, particularly those on business parks.


• Tackle mobile connectivity, working with network operators and other relevant stakeholders to eradicate the ‘not spots’ that exist across the UK, rolling out 5G technology nationally.


• Improve our roads by tackling the increase in potholes and investing in new regional projects, prioritising improvements to the A46 and A5.


• Electrify the Midland Main Line and secure longer-term reliability and capacity gains


that our business growth demands.


• Invest in renewable energy production and incentivise lower carbon business activity, backing the clean technology businesses that are developing products and processes that will sell around the world.


GET THE BASICS RIGHT • Ensure that education reform is driven by the realities of the labour market – ending the dogmatic focus on grade attainment and giving greater weight to employability activity.


• Embed opportunities to experience local workplaces throughout a child’s time in school.


• Deliver a transparent and predictable business rates system that incentivises investment and is based on ability to pay.


• Change the regulatory culture to one that supports and enables as opposed to hinders and penalises.


• Give teeth to the Small Business Commissioner to enable them to meaningfully tackle late payments and encourage more equitable public procurement practices.


BACK A GLOBAL EAST MIDLANDS • Place real SME business experience at the heart of future agreements and deals with the EU and other countries.


• Minimise all future tariff barriers – ensuring businesses continue to benefit from existing Free Trade Agreements and brokering new agreements with emerging markets.


• Develop future customs and origin rules in partnership with businesses.


• Ensure businesses have continued access to the international talent they need.


• Fund an expanded trade missions and trade fairs programme, specifically targeted at SME businesses.


• Reduce Air Passenger Duty, back new route development and get the most out of existing capacity at regional airports.


BOOST OUR COMPETITIVENESS • Emphasise the importance of diversification and innovation within current and future funding programmes, supporting supply- chains from the bottom up as well as encouraging support from the top down.


• Further increase the R&D and investment incentives to businesses investing in products, machinery, plant and people.


• Provide specific funding to enhance leadership and management skills within manufacturing and engineering SME businesses.


• Give early clarity around the shape and extent of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, ensuring evidence-based funding aligned with local industrial strategy priorities.


A ZONE OF OPPORTUNITY The East Midlands is among the fastest growing regions in the UK. The businesses based here innovate, make and


move goods and services more effectively and efficiently than anywhere else in the country.


The continued success of the East Midlands


is not only integral in delivering the success of the Midlands Engine but will also be central in ensuring a competitive UK economy for the long-term. In recent years, the region has not received


the same levels of funding as other parts of the UK. The East Midlands therefore presents Government with a massive opportunity. With the right investment, we can take our


growth from good to great. We believe that, with the right vision, we can


build on our natural and business-led advantages to create a zone of ultra-high growth in logistics and advanced manufacturing in the centre of the country that will spearhead national growth for years to come.


Hinged around East Midlands Airport – the


largest pure freight airport in the country – and the adjacent East Midlands Gateway, a 700- acre logistics development, the zone would draw upon the talent in the surrounding three cities and counties and the expertise in our six universities. It would capitalise on having the M1 running


through its centre, the Midland Main Line up its spine and the future development of the nearby HS2 East Midlands Hub station. It would utilise the existing land available for


development at Toton and future significant brownfield sites in the area. The Chamber and its members believe that


this list of asks is not only achievable, but in the grand scheme of things is also financially viable which, in the current economic climate, is something a new Government cannot afford to ignore. The East Midlands provides a significant and


unique opportunity for delivering a step change in UK growth. In the face of uncertainty, businesses in this


region will always look for the opportunity to succeed. To support them in this, it is essential that a new Government delivers the basics that businesses need to grow.


business network December 2019/January 2020


51


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