There is no such thing as a free lunch

THE Institute of Directors yesterday put forward a couple of dozen proposed policy changes which it described as “freebies”.

Its point was that the measures would (in its view, at least) improve the prospects for economic growth “at little or no cost to the taxpayer”.

But as company directors are often the first to point out, particularly when a government is on the look-out for more money from them, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

In this case, the cost of the IoD’s “freebies” would be met in many cases by ordinary workers, in others by the environment, and in some by the Treasury itself.

The proposal for employees to be required to put up a �500 deposit before commencing an Employment Tribunal claim against an employer would amount to a denial of justice, deterring many genuine claims along with the vexatious.

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This would be more of a “freebie” for unscrupulous employers than for the Government.

The IoD would also like the Government to abolish the rights of employees to request flexible working arrangements and to request training. It argues that both systems create red tape while achieving little or nothing to bring about the improvements intended, but this is short-sighted given the benefits of a well-motivated workforce.

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Some of the IoD’s proposals make good sense; for example, allowing local authorities to keep a proportion of any increase in business rate income so that they have an incentive to boost private sector growth.

Similarly, it makes good sense for future profits from sale of state-owned bank shares to be earmarked for key infrastructure projects.

But the demand for Green Belt land to be released for development in order to boost the construction sector is wide of the mark, with the sector’s immediate problems being more down to a crisis of confidence, and funding, within the housing market and the wider economy than to a shortage of land.

The IoD has more of a point when it calls for a fast-track planning system for major national projects but even here its statement that “local objections will need to be overridden” is no “freebie”.

The result would inevitably be higher compensation pay-outs, for which the taxpayer would ultimately have to pick up the tab.

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