The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Monday, 8 November 2010

I’m Dreaming of a White….Paper

By Chris Fletcher - Deputy Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce


Since the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 20 October, there has been a blizzard of government white papers.

The pre-CSR landscape was dominated by all manner of speculation, estimates and forecasts. Since the Chancellor’s announcement, however, the environment has become a lot clearer, particularly in relation to the key policies that will impact massively on businesses.

So, what should we be on the look out for, what should we be concerned about, and what are we going to do to make sure businesses benefit?

Firstly, the Spending Review itself: http://cdn.hmtreasury.gov.uk/sr2010_completereport.pdf This really did lay out the boundaries of what the government spending plans will look like over the next four years. However, in amongst the very detailed calculations, there are still quite a few gaps in the specifics. Take transport, for example, which will retain its capital spending, but we are yet to see details about key projects such as the Northern Hub, which is as important to Greater Manchester, and indeed the North West, as Crossrail is to London. This is just one example of many.

Hot on the heels of the CSR came the ‘Local Growth’ white paper: http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/regional/docs/l/cm7961-local-growth-white-paper.pdf This was released on the same day that the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Greater Manchester was given the go ahead. The ‘Local Growth’ white paper contains all manner of extremely interesting suggestions as to how local funds can be raised to fund capital spending in the future. For example, the paper looks at the retention and pooling of locally raised business rates, business growth bonuses and tax increment financing. A further review on this is due for the New Year when the ‘Local Government Resource Review’ gets underway. ‘Local Growth’ also covers the transition from the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to LEPs, housing and planning issues, and also sets out what the new Regional Growth Fund will deliver.

By itself the above would be enough to be getting on with, but it doesn’t stop there.

Next up were two more papers: ‘Financing Business Growth’ http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/corporate/docs/f/10-1242-financing-business-growth-response and ‘Backing Small Business’ http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/enterprise/docs/b/10-1243-backing-small-business . These were released on the same day that Lord Young was announced as the new Enterprise Tsar, a position held previously by Lord Sugar. In a nutshell, these papers get to the heart of some of the fundamental issues we have been raising with government for some time now, on behalf of members. These issues include: access to finance, help for exporters, better terms to help firms access government procurement opportunities and, linked with Lord Young’s other job for government, a realistic approach to cutting red tape and freeing business to get on with its job.

So, there we have it; a truly comprehensive list of policies and mechanisms designed to give business the environment and tools to grow, recruit and lead the recovery.

What next though? The next few weeks promise to be extremely busy for us. With our local councils and specialist committees we will be finalising our top priority issues themed around growth for the next 12 months. We will also be assessing, in detail, how the contents of the various papers will impact or affect these issues.

Once this has been done, we will let you, our members, know how you can get involved with this activity. We will also give some very clear messages to the decision-makers about what businesses want to see happen.

Whether you agree or disagree with the government, one thing is sure: they are reliant on business to get the UK economy back on track and are willing to listen. We need to make the most of this opportunity. You need to tell us what you want and we will be visible and vocal on your behalf.

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