Long-term strategies for energy and industry are top of the wishlist for the region’s businesses ahead of the next General Election, according to a new study by East Midlands Chamber.
Speeding up the rollout of full-fibre broadband and 5G connectivity, greater investment in road and rail infrastructure projects, and better incentives for upskilling and reskilling people followed closely behind as priorities.
The chamber of commerce for Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire asked businesses to provide views on 20 policy asks in its latest Quarterly Economic Survey, with the development of a long-term energy strategy for the UK ranking as being the most important.
Results were compiled to establish a list of top priorities for businesses, which has been published ahead of the upcoming Labour and Conservative party conferences in October.
Chris Hobson, director of policy and insight at East Midlands Chamber, said: “With a General Election drawing closer on the horizon, it’s hugely important for the voice of businesses to be heard by the next Government in order to drive sustainable economic growth that delivers jobs and prosperity.
“After many years of policy flip-flopping, economic shocks and the resulting uncertainty this has created for businesses, long-term planning appears to be front and centre of minds.
“A long-term energy strategy is understandably top of the list given the huge rise in utilities costs for firms and households over the past two years combined with the opportunities business see to deliver future solutions in this space. It’s closely followed by a comprehensive industrial strategy that finally addresses the UK’s perennial productivity problem – which is crucial to growing output, creating jobs and bringing down inflation.
“In our regional economic blueprint, A Centre of Trading Excellence: A Business Manifesto for Growth in the East Midlands and Beyond, launched in Westminster last year, we highlighted the importance of infrastructure – that is, both digital and transport – as one of ‘four Is’ to spearheading growth.
“Businesses are telling us they want to see real improvements across broadband and 5G connectivity, which are both crucial to 21st century working, while investing in our roads and rail is crucial to their future success – an important consideration at a time Government is deliberating over the future of HS2 and our region continues to be bottom of the pile for public transport investment.
“We have also spoken in our manifesto about ‘getting the basics right’ and ‘growing our competitiveness the right way’, and both these themes are reflected in our survey as firms tell us they want the broken business rates to be made fit for purpose and better incentives to support the net zero agenda.”
Policy priorities for East Midlands businesses
The responses on policy priorities were gathered by East Midlands Chamber in August and September 2023 as part of its Quarterly Economic Survey, in which 296 businesses across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire took part.
They were presented with a list of 20 policy asks of Government and asked to score them based on importance to their organisation, providing additional comments as to why. The top 10 priority areas, in order, were:
- The development of a long-term Energy Strategy for the UK
- The development of a long-term Industrial Strategy for the UK
- Speeding up the rollout of full-fibre broadband
- Greater investment in local infrastructure projects (road, rail)
- More flexible/generous incentives for investment in staff development/reskilling (including application of Apprenticeship Levy)
- Greater investment in major infrastructure projects (road, rail)
- Speeding up the rollout of 5G technology
- Comprehensive reform of the business rates system
- Greater investment in integrated public transport networks
- More flexible/generous incentives for developments associated with the green agenda.
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