Businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire will hit the incoming Government with a list of priorities to help kickstart investment, growth and confidence among firms in the region.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce drew together its branch chairs from across the area alongside around 50 other business leaders at an event at the Dallas Burston Polo Club in Southam.
The event was designed to draw out some of the issues that could hold the economy back in the region and to ensure the Chamber was ready to speak on behalf of businesses as soon as the election result is confirmed.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said the economy in the region had held up well against a backdrop of uncertainty, but that the Chamber’s most recent Quarterly Economic Surveys with companies had shown a slight dip in confidence and a delaying of investment decisions.
With that in mind, Louise asked businesspeople in the room to feedback with any issues they saw as potentially damaging to growth in the region and set out what the Chamber would be calling for from Government.
She said: “We have to recognise how resilient Coventry and Warwickshire has been and how incredibly well companies of all sizes and sectors have performed.
“But in our most recent surveys, we have started to see companies telling us that they have put off investment and we can only hope that is in the short term because of Brexit.
“So what we are doing now is saying to the next Government, don’t forget about business because we need all of the help you can give us to grow, take on new people and generate the wealth that the region and the country needs.
“That’s around the cost of running a business, the need for improved infrastructure, support with overseas trade and help when it comes to skills.
“Economic growth for next year is expected to be low so we need the new Government to listen to the needs of businesses on the ground so we have the best possible conditions to grow.”
Among the priorities are to extend the £1 million Annual Investment Allowance; to protect tax relief schemes that incentivise investment; to reverse the reduction in the dividend allowance; to launch a business-led review of the business rates system; to introduce a moratorium on measures that increase costs to business; and to enable the British Business Bank to play a greater role in helping companies on the patch to invest.
On skills, the Chamber is calling for an increase in funding for apprenticeships to help small and medium-sized businesses to access training but, it says, the Government must stop tinkering with the system.
It is also calling for, among other things, a long-term strategy and funding for lifelong learning to enable people to upskill, retrain and adapt to changes in the workplace.
On planning and infrastructure, the Chamber has called for local improvements to public transport to allow greater movement between different areas of Coventry and Warwickshire.
It believes there must be a balance between improving the infrastructure across the region but also meeting commitments on carbon reduction.
The Chamber will also continue to campaign for more land for employment in Coventry and Warwickshire to ensure that firms in the region have the space to grow but, also, that there is enough space to attract future inward investors.
On Brexit, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce is clear that the UK must not leave the European Union without a deal and there must be a smooth transition period for firms to adapt.
Louise added that the funding that came into the region via Europe must be replaced domestically.
She said: “Not everyone will have heard of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund but this money needs to be directed to businesses and to projects that will generate economic growth.
“EU funding has been drawn down to the region over many years and we need this to be replaced in Coventry and Warwickshire by the Shared Prosperity Fund, especially as we continue to deal with the uncertainty of Brexit.”
Pictured (left to right): Sean Rose, Steve Harcourt, Karen Shuter, Major Richard Carney, David Penn, Tom Mongan, Louise Bennett, Larry Coltman