The Institute of Directors has launched a manifesto calling on the next Government to reinvigorate the UK’s regions.
In the first of a series, the manifesto calls on the incoming Government to target business relief and tax incentives in areas in need of investment and to create long-term regional funding pots for business and organisations to draw from.
The IoD also wants wider decentralisation of powers, regional Cabinet meetings and “rapid” improvements to local transport and fast broadband access.
And it is also demanding a “blitz” of investment incentives to “fix the UK’s dire record on productivity”, proposing a new ‘Productivity Allowance’ tax incentive for SMEs, and boosted reliefs for start-up and scale-up investment.
Elsewhere, the organisation wants the next Government to incentivise lifelong learning through tax breaks and widen the scope of the Apprenticeship Levy to reflect the needs of businesses.
The chair of the IoD’s Cumbrian branch, Barry Leahey MBE, said the key demands were all relevant to the county.
“The manifesto really does apply to what is needed in our region,” he said.
“We are at a crossroads and with strong political leadership we could really grow and prosper in Cumbria by achieving the requests in the document.”
Mr Leahey, who is also managing director of manufacturer Playdale Playgrounds, called for a ‘Team Cumbria’ approach boosting the county’s prosperity.
Speaking after the in-Cumbria Business Awards 2019 – for which he judged Best Businessperson of the Year – he added: “We have just seen and recognised the talent of Cumbria – let's grow others and then support them to prosper. This would give Cumbria a long-term future with choices.”
From a national perspective, the IoD’s chief economist Tej Parikh said December 12 should not become a “Brexit election”.
“Leaving the EU isn’t a get-out clause allowing the incoming Government to overlook the many domestic hurdles impeding the UK’s economic growth,” he said.
“From backing start-ups and scale-ups, to speeding up full-fibre broadband delivery and strengthening the links between universities and SMEs, there’s no shortage of steps government can and should take to put our economy on the front foot and reinvigorate the regions.
“After years of bottled-up investment, we have to make up for lost time to sort out the country’s dire record on productivity.
He added: “Parties have signalled their intention to spend big in the years ahead, but there’s no point filling the tank with fuel if the engine still needs a service. Politicians must show they understand the day-to-day challenges facing businesses and be strategic, realistic, but ambitious in their response.”