With the result of the Tory leadership contest announced and Boris Johnson due to be appointed as the new Prime Minister – Business Link magazine speaks with a number of business leaders from around the region to gauge their response.
Edwin Morgan, IoD Interim Director General, comments: “The new Prime Minister will take the reins at crunch-time for businesses up and down the country. It’s crucial that the incoming administration recognises that this is a daunting time for many firms, and is prepared to back them. We look forward to working with Government to achieve this.
“The UK faces long-term skills challenges that have contributed to stalling productivity growth across sectors and regions. Firms are crying out for infrastructure upgrades, while high costs and uncertainty are often stalling their own investment plans.
“A no deal Brexit would only add to the uncertainty and distract from these challenges, but avoiding a disorderly exit will enable the country to focus on them and move forward to everyone’s benefit. But whatever shape Brexit takes it is businesses that will bear much of the brunt of adapting, so we will continue to lead the charge for greater support for preparation.
“IoD members are eager to see the country’s new leader channel his energies toward the task of bolstering British enterprise.”
James Pinchbeck, Marketing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants says: “Hopefully confirmation as to who the new Prime Minster is will at least give some certainty even if we still lack direction or an indication as to the outcome of Brexit. Certainly business and the economy needs clear direction from Government both at home and overseas especially in terms of the direction of travel and strategic intent for Brexit. We need a definitive outcome with strong visionary leadership.”
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry, says: “We need to see a real sense of urgency from this new Prime Minister when it comes to creating a pro-enterprise environment. As things stand, small business confidence is at rock-bottom: political uncertainty has left us unable to invest, grow and plan for the future. The UK has long been one of the best places in the world to do business. It’s crucial that we keep it that way.
“We had promising discussions with Boris Johnson during his campaign and look forward to working with him on the issues that matter most to small businesses.
“Securing a pro-business EU withdrawal agreement that can command a majority in the House of Commons is task one for this new administration. Brexit has been absorbing government bandwidth for years now, leaving domestic challenges unaddressed. Chief among these are a broken business rates system, spiralling employment costs and derisory broadband and phone connectivity.
“We need to get back to basics. Closing the UK’s productivity gap and increasing GDP growth will only happen when small firms have the political certainty, tax reform and world-leading infrastructure needed to take risks and innovate. Time is of the essence for this new government.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, adds: “Many congratulations to Boris Johnson. British business shares your optimism for the UK. Let’s work together to get our economy back on track and working for communities everywhere.
“Business needs three things in the first 100 days. A Brexit deal that unlocks confidence; clear signals the UK is open for business; and a truly pro-enterprise vision for our country.
“On Brexit, the new Prime Minister must not underestimate the benefits of a good deal. It will unlock new investment and confidence in factories and boardrooms across the country. Business will back you across Europe to help get there.
“Early signals back home also matter. From a new immigration system to green-lighting major infrastructure, there is no time to waste.”
Grainne Gilmore, Head of UK Residential Research at Knight Frank, said: “Boris Johnson’s to-do list may be dominated by Brexit, but addressing the pressing issues in the housing market across the UK will also be key.
“Housing delivery in England needs to rise by 25% to meet the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes a year by mid-2020. Meanwhile the number of new housing starts peaked in 2016, and nearly half of all local authorities are set to miss their housing targets next year, according to the National Audit Office.
“One way to encourage more progress would be to allow a housing minister to continue in office for more than the average tenure length of 12 months seen over the last five years. (Kit Malthouse July 2018 – present; Dominic Raab January 2018 – July 2018; Alok Sharma June 2017 – January 2018; Gavin Barwell July 2016 – June 2017; Brandon Lewis July 2014 – July 2016).
“The new prime minister has made no secret of his desire to reform stamp duty. Such a move would help unlock some parts of the market where the fees to buy a new home have escalated rapidly in recent years, slowing activity, and in some cases deterring downsizers. Allowing downsizers to free up family homes is essential for a market that wants to use its housing efficiently.”
William Matthews, Head of Commercial Research at Knight Frank, said: “We urge the new Prime Minister to prioritise further investment in the UK’s transport and digital infrastructure.
“London’s success means that professionals still flock to the capital, despite Brexit, putting the population at an all-time high just shy of 10 million. Rail and Underground networks are both under strain at peak times. We need decisive government backing for Crossrail 2 to deliver more capacity and open up new areas of the capital for regeneration and development.
“Better transport links to and across the North are also vital for the Northern Powerhouse project. The new government must avoid pitting North against South on infrastructure spending, as investment in both will boost the national economy and attract international investment.
“Boris Johnson has rightly made digital infrastructure a priority and pledged 100% coverage by 2025, eight years earlier than planned. We now need to see the detail of how this will be achieved.
“Digital connectivity is especially vital for London, where the tech sector is a major part of the capital’s economy accounting for almost 20% of office take-up last year. That said, we are facing an office supply drought with 50% of all office space under construction in London prelet, rising to 70% in the West End, and are at risk of being unable to accommodate all the businesses that wish to expand, or locate in the capital.
“London is responsible for almost a quarter of the UK’s GVA and in order to stay relevant, competitive and significant globally, our digital and transport infrastructure needs to match our ambition. We know Boris is a fan of big infrastructure projects and if he commits to the right ones, this will provide a significant boost to the UK economy at a critical time.”