East Anglia: Business leaders welcome Osborne’s focus on growth

GROWTH must be the target for the Government, the region’s business leaders said as they reacted to Chancellor George Osborne’s wide-ranging speech to the Conservative Party conference today.

Mr Osborne, who outlined radical changes in employment law, insisted the rich had been targeted for taxation under his tenure, and signalled a further �10billion in welfare cuts.

He stood firm on his deficit reduction plans, and outlined growth priorities including increased aviation capacity, investment in renewable energy and shale gas, and industrial policy to support science in the UK.

Mr Osborne’s proposed shake-up of employment law includes a plan to give workers shares in companies in a trade-off for their rights to unfair dismissal and redundancy.

He even stole a socialist slogan to declare to delegates: “Owners, workers and the tax man all in it together – workers of the world unite.”

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and chief executive of Adnams, welcomed the continued focus on deficit reduction, and the Chancellor’s growth proposals, which he hopes will benefit the East Anglian economy.

“The Chancellor is right to focus on deficit reduction and also look at ways of getting the economy growing again,” he said.

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“I very much welcome his commitment to renewable energy as this sector is so important to the East Anglian economy and is at a critical phase in its development. I welcome too further investment in scientific research to support a new industrial policy.”

But there was a more mixed reaction to his employment law proposals. John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, and Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, felt it could be “a useful option” for some new and fast-growing businesses.

“It is an innovative and imaginative proposal that deserves to be tried out, but it is unlikely to be a game-changer,” said Mr Dugmore, who added that Mr Osborne was “right” to acknowledge that the country must face up to the challenge of global competitiveness through enterprise, effort and aspiration.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development employee relations adviser Mike Emmott said the UK had “one of the least regulated labour markets in the world” and there was little evidence to suggest that employment regulation was preventing small businesses from taking people on.