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

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

"What do you think of it so far?"

Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, updates us on the latest news from his visit to London.

Two firsts today: The first keynote speech by shadow business secretary, John Denham, at a meeting I was invited to at the British Academy in London; and the first on-the-road blog I've done to let you know what he said.

I have some further meetings lined up with BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) officials, but more of that later.

So, what did Mr. Denham have to say? Well, not a lot from a new policy angle as the Labour party currently is embarking on a whole-scale policy review so anyone expecting big announcements would have been disappointed. However, some themes did emerge, such as that the review would cover areas such as skills, focused sector growth, and what support for growth may look like in the post RDA world.

Looking back he felt that the previous government was on the right track with business, but didn't complete the job. With regard to the current government’s efforts, he expressed real concern at what he put as the "wrong decisions being made" that ultimately could "kick the ladder of opportunity away" from businesses and prevent what he acknowledged as the vital ingredient for recovery, namely private sector growth and job creation.

So, no new announcements, but a reasonably polished performance from a shadow minister who has a reasonable level of experience. I will be dropping Mr. Denham a line inviting him to the Chamber to make sure that whatever the future policy of the opposition looks like it has business interests at its heart.

Moving on from someone with aspirations to work at 1 Victoria Street (the home of BIS or the DTI for those people still pre-decimal), to the present incumbents.

A key part of my role, and that of my colleagues, is to make the links with key officials and politicians in order to keep up-to-speed with the latest issues affecting you as businesses, as well as keeping them in the loop with what you are struggling with. This is a core part of what we do on your behalf and whilst today it’s London, the next time it may be closer to home such as the recent event with the Prime Minister.

Armed with your feedback, input and views from meetings and surveys we can make sure that your voice counts. Link this with our emerging policy priorities (watch this space for further updates), and you get a very clear message backed up by real experiences that business matters and needs some help at present to get through the current turmoil.

I still think 2011 will see growth, but at what rate remains anybody’s guess. There are still many decisions to be taken at the top level of government that we can influence but we need the ammunition to fire.