Responding to the Chancellor’s speech at Conservative Party Conference, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:
“Pride and confidence in British business has for too long been missing in Westminster. It made a comeback in the Chancellor’s speech today.
“Ultimately actions will speak louder than words. This starts with a new era of partnership between business and government. Firms’ on-the-ground insight is the cornerstone of great policy. Only by working together can every policy and every business investment be aimed at the key prize: a UK economy where prosperity is shared.
“The Chancellor has started this process. Reform of the Apprenticeship Levy, currently failing firms and apprentices alike, is vital. Additional funding for the National Retraining Partnership will help people embrace technological change. Recognising and supporting the great work underway between small and large business in supply chains will lift regional prosperity.
“But the spirit of partnership must run through every policy and every government department. Ideas such as a digital tax could backfire on entrepreneurs and the high street if developed without proper consultation and should go hand-in-hand with business rates reform.”
On skills, Carolyn said:
“Companies know they are nothing without their people. Apprentices accelerate local growth and have been failed for too long. Businesses will be delighted to hear today’s commitment to change.
“Companies spend £45 billion every year on skills training, more than the entire English secondary school budget. But for two years CBI members of all sizes have been clear that the Levy has blunted provision. The 40% drop in apprenticeship starts alone is evidence that this reform is long overdue.
“To their credit the Government is listening. Improving the range of high-quality courses available and helping supply chains work together to provide what is needed locally is what business has been calling for.
“But more is needed. The Government must act now to deliver a meaningful review of the levy that demonstrates it will continue to collaborate with companies.”
“And with a well-funded National Retraining partnership delivered with the CBI and TUC, plus T levels and a revistalised careers strategy, the UK’s skills system could fire on all cylinders.”
On support for small and medium sized firms, Carolyn said:
“Small and mid-sized firms are the heart of the UK’s economy and thriving supply chains are its arteries. When big and small businesses share ideas on technology, management practices and skills, the results can be transformational.
“Today’s support for Be the Business – led by business, backed by Government – will help companies help themselves. It will give a welcome boost to innovative technologies, jobs and wages at a time when the country needs it most.”
On digital tax, Carolyn said:
“The UK’s approach to tax must reflect a fast-changing economy. Wherever possible, the UK must move in step internationally if we are to address the tax balance in a way that is sustainable and doesn’t damage the UK’s global competitive advantage.
“All businesses are increasingly digital. Any new approach must be built on evidence from enterprise or it risks being blunt and counterproductive.”