Suffolk business leaders sign letter warning of Labour Party threat to jobs

Lord Rose, the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer.
Photo: Mike Ellis Photography

Lord Rose, the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer. Photo: Mike Ellis Photography - Credit: Archant

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand and former Marks & Spencer chief Lord (Stuart) Rose are among more than 100 UK business leaders who have signed a letter warning that a Labour government would threaten jobs and investment.

Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King.

Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King. - Credit: Archant

They are two of the most senior business leaders in Suffolk, with Bury St Edmunds-based Greene King ranking as the county’s biggest company while Lord Rose, who has a home in Suffolk, has played a key role in plans to revive the fortunes of Ipswich town centre.

The letter says that the Conservative-led coalition “has been good for business and has pursued policies which have supported investment and job creation.”

It says that the progressive lowering of Corporation Tax to 20% “has been very important in showing that the UK is open for business” – an apparent attack on Labour’s plan to reverse the latest cut from 21% in order to fund a reduction in business rates for small firms.

The letter adds: “We believe a change in course will threaten jobs and deter investment. This would send a negative message about Britain and put the recovery at risk.”

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The letter, published by the Daily Telegraph, came as it emerged that Labour has strengthened its plans to clamp down on “exploitative” zero hours contracts, promising to guarantee workers the right to a regular contract after 12 weeks of working regular hours with an employer, rather than after a year as the party previously proposed.

In an interview with the BBC today, Lord Rose accepted that the number of zero-hours contracts should be reduced but denied they were being “abused” by employers and insisted Labour’s proposed restrictions were not the solution.

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“It is a good ambition of course over time to reduce the number of zero-hours contracts,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think the total number of zero-hours contracts in the workforce is something like 2%. Clearly everybody would want to get that down but the most important thing first is to create more secure jobs. If you create more secure jobs you will allow over time for us to reduce the number of zero-hours contracts.”

Asked whether small businesses would prefer a rates cut, he said: “Businesses always want something, always need something. The good news at the moment is that we have got this flourishing environment and we have got record numbers of start-ups.

“Businesses are actually reasonably happy at the moment because they know that the environment into which they are trying to invest, trying to expand, trying to drive their business, is allowing them to do that.

“Clearly they would always want something else but it’s a question of choices we have to make.”

He added: “Look at the large number of people who have signed it. Look at the diverse backgrounds they come from, whether they’re small businesses, medium-sized businesses or large businesses. That must say something.”

Lord Rose, who is currently chairman of Ocado and Fat Face, was knighted in 2007 for services to the retail industry and corporate social responsibility. He previously acted as an adviser to Gordon Brown but became a Conservative peer last year.

Rooney Anand has been chief executive of Greene King since 2005, before which he spend four years as managing director of the group’s brewing division.

He is not known for seeking a high profile in the media, but he has been a strong supporter in recent years of the introduction of minimum pricing for alochol.

Other well-known signatories of the letter include Baroness (Karren) Brady, BP chief executive Bob Dudley, Prudential chief exextuvie Tidjane Thiam, Whitbread chief executive Andy Harrison and George Weston, chief executive of Associated British Foods, which owns businesses including British Sugar and Primark.

Also among the signatories are entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den panel member Duncan Bannatyne and Dixons Carphone and Talk Talk chairman Sir Charles Dunstone, who have both previously supported Labour.

Mr Bannatyne backed Gordon Brown in 2010 but has more recently spoken out against Labour’s proposed “mansion tax”, although last year he was quoted as saying that he had decided not to support any party.

Sir Charles backed Tony Blair before the 2005 election but was already on record before today’s letter as having switched his support to the Conservatives.

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