Focus on the business fundamentals, Chamber chief urges election candidates

May 08, 2017

Last month’s announcement by Prime Minister Theresa May is yet another unwelcome distraction for businesses at a time of heightened uncertainty following the UK’s decision to leave the EU a year ago, say members of Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire Chambers of Commerce.

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of the two Chambers, said: “While this general Election will inevitably be centred around Brexit, competing visions of what shape negotiations should take and the UK’s place in the world post-Brexit, we would strongly urge the next government to focus on the fundamentals which immediately impact local firms and their ability to do business.

“Perennial issues such as connectivity, skills shortages, recruitment difficulties, the up-front costs of doing business and support for exporters are first and foremost on the minds of business leaders.

“All of which currently have a greater impact on their ability to grow and generate jobs, vital for the continued success of the area.”

Both Northamptomshire and Milton Keynes have a vast array of key assets including excellent links to UK and world markets, a wealth of globally recognised brands and unemployment below the national average.

However, Mr Griffiths said, their continued growth is hindered by numerous threats including inadequate broadband and digital connectivity that also includes 4G and 5G and a shortage of school leavers with qualifications in the STEM subjects of science technical, engineering and maths. He added tthat, in Northamptonshire, the substantial shortfall of HGV drivers will significantly hinder growth in the logistics sector, responsible for one in ten of the county’s jobs.

In Milton Keynes, poor East-West connectivity by road and rail and insufficient housing supply is also affecting the borough’s success, Mr Griffiths said.

The ongoing increases in up-front costs for businesses such as the Apprenticeship Levy, the national Living Wage, business rates and insurance premiums needs to be curtailed, he added.

“In order for businesses to remain competitive, the burden of doing business needs to be minimised.

The Chambers have called on prospective Parliamentary candidates to deliver on proposals that are already in the pipeline, such as the Industrial Strategy, and to heed the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission’s findings on the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge Growth Corridor.

Continuing to build on these two initiatives will go some way to addressing the threats to Milton Keynes. Firms in Northamptonshire will also benefit from the next government continuing to work alongside the Midlands Engine, as it seeks to build a powerhouse of economic growth across the region.

Addressing these local fundamentals will, in the Chamber’s opinion, enable firms to be better placed as they continue to grow and develop, as well as competing with their counterparts throughout the UK and internationally. 

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