Cutting the deficit ‘must remain a priority for the next government’ says CBI chief

CBI director general John Cridland.

CBI director general John Cridland. - Credit: Photoshot

Cutting the national deficit must remain a top priority for the next government, but major changes are needed to prevent public services suffering, according to the leader of the CBI.

And, in a New Year message relased today, director general John Cridland has also called for radical reform of the education system and the European Union.

Mr Cridland said: “It has been a successful year for the UK economy, and we have emerged stronger and more able to tackle the challenges ahead.

“Our economy is among those enjoying the fastest growth among the G7 nations, with 1.2million jobs created this year and employment set to grow in every region of the UK in 2015.

“But the political and economic risks at home and abroad represent a clear and present danger. As the election countdown accelerates, I urge politicians of all hues not to take their eyes off the economic ball.”

Mr Cridland pointed to the importance of cutting the deficit as a key element of creating the necessary conditions for sustained economic growth.

“For business leaders, deficit reduction is a must for the next government,” he said. “The main political parties are in agreement on the need for action but seem reluctant to be upfront on the major structural changes needed to prevent public services suffering decline through a thousand cuts.

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“All political parties need to give as much attention to how they will run government as to what government should do.

“Post-Autumn Statement, the same approach to public service reform is no longer an option. Much of the low hanging fruit is long since gone and only radical solutions will deliver.

“Let’s see the integration of health and social care, and a significant increase in services available online.”

Mr Cridland predicted that changes to the education system would lead to the eventual scrapping of GCSEs for 16-year-olds and the introduction of a “personal menu” of learning plans for teenagers, offering a mix of academic and vocational A-levels.

“Britain’s young people are streetwise and impressive, but our education system doesn’t always serve them well,” he said. “While the average is gently improving, we see too many left behind, and others who could be high achievers not fulfilling their potential.

“We need to get the basics right first time in primary school and then provide a personal menu of tailored learning plans for all 14-18 year olds offering high quality academic and vocational A-levels, and encouraging young people to mix and match, depending on what’s right for them.”

Mr Cridland said that most CBI members wanted to remain in a reformed EU but added: “We need less EU – no more lifestyle regulation on matters like employment, such as the working time directive, which should be left to member states, and no more damaging regulations on UK financial services that are vital to fuelling growth across Europe.”

However, he warned against calls to withdraw from the EU. “The fundamental choice here is whether Britain wants to be a global citizen or retreat behind national borders,” he said. “Political isolationism would leave us poorer. The majority of CBI member companies of all sizes want to remain in a reformed EU.”