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Queen’s Speech Holds No Surprises for Black Country Chamber of Commerce

CEO EResponding to the Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament, Kevin Rogers, CEO of Paycare and Vice President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said: “There were no surprises in the speech; most of the content appears to have been previewed. We welcome the steps towards reducing red tape but would suggest that efforts should be directed towards central agencies such as HMRC as well as local manifestations such as Trading Standards. Increasing the number of apprenticeships will always be welcome but unless there is a focus on improving quality and a better fit with the needs of small businesses, increasing numbers will have little positive effect on the skills shortage. The failure of the trailblazer programme suggests that more thought needs to be applied to the issue of skills development and the Black Country Chamber of Commerce is eager to work with any agencies to ensure we end up with programmes that are fit for purpose.

“We hope that the pledge not to increase income tax and VAT for the next five years is not at the cost of business rates and corporation tax. Businesses are prepared to pay more local taxes if they can see clearer benefits and if in return, they can have more of a say in local activity. We remind the government that the key to increasing wealth is through sustainable business growth which in turn leads to a greater fiscal contribution from business.

“Eliminating the gap between education and employment is one of our aims: underperformance in schools costs the Black Country £1bn per year so we are keen to see what measures are being put in place. More academies may be useful but the failure of the UTC in Walsall reminds us that new educational institutions must be managed as well as, if not better, than incumbent schools.

“Energy security is a very important issue for businesses and the Queen’s Speech recognises this. Protection against strikes is necessary only where industrial relations are poor. We frown upon mischievous action but would prefer more emphasis on how businesses can work constructively with their employees to drive up productivity and reward.

“A balanced economic recovery means an integrated economic strategy. It means recognising the role of the Industrial Heart of the UK as its economic engine. The Northern Powerhouse will run out of steam without the engine at the heart of the UK. The Midlands Chambers of Commerce must work together to ensure that the rewards of devolved powers are assured and that the industrial mix of the region supports a vision of sustained economic growth.

“Finally, a knee jerk reaction to the immigration zeitgeist will hurt businesses. Most businesses employ foreign workers because of the shortage of skilled local workers: they offer a fair rate of pay. Characterising businesses as continually seeking to drive down pay, as employing illegal workers and ignoring local talent is not only wrong, it leads to a false image of the contribution of business to local economies. If politicians wish to demonstrate their understanding of the conditions of growth they must overcome their populist anti-business rhetoric and find ways of empowering businesses to develop the pool of local talent they need to secure sustainable economic growth.    

“The Black Country will take its place on the world stage as the premier mid-tier centre of excellence for manufacturing, testing and design. We will herald sustainable growth through remanufacture and developing a circular economy. We expect the budget on 8 July to remove local and national barriers to our vision. We will double the size of the Black Country economy by the end of 2023 and expect our government to elicit support to help us achieve our aim and we will be leading the way with, and for, Black Country business.”

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