A vision for a strong economy: ICAEW’s priorities for the new Government

The next Government has the opportunity to build a stronger and more inclusive economy, and to make the UK one of the very best places in the world to do business.

With that in mind today we are publishing recommendations in six major areas of policy, which we see as critical for the future success of business in Britain. Drawing on the insights and expertise of our members, we are setting out the priorities which we believe the next Government must address if Britain is to maintain a leading position in a world of strong economies.

Empower the UK’s business community

We would like to see Government make a small number of key changes in the business environment which would have a major impact on the ability of small companies in particular to grow and succeed.

These include directing public funding to help connect professional advisers to fast growing companies and private sector expertise, introducing an export voucher to incentivise SMEs to export, and enhancing SMEs’ access to finance.

Make Brexit a success

As the Government embarks on the process of negotiating a new relationship with the EU, it should play to the strengths of the UK economy and aim for a deal that will ensure British companies and professional services providers continue to be valued business partners across the European market.

We urge Government to focus on protecting market access, safeguarding the movement of skilled labour and ensuring UK qualifications are recognised across the EU.

Build trust in business

To secure and strengthen the UK’s global standing as a place to do business, Government must build a regulatory framework that delivers world-leading accountability and transparency from companies without deterring foreign investment.

This would include businesses publishing pay ratios which put executive pay levels into context, modernising boards and introducing a code for economically significant private companies.

Build a tax system that works for all businesses

The complexity of the UK tax code undermines confidence, inhibits economic growth and allows for unacceptable tax behaviour. This general election and Brexit provide an opportunity for the next Government to commit to a stable and simplified tax system that encourages investment and growth.

Although Making Tax Digital (MTD) has been dropped from the Finance Bill, the overall timetable for implementation in April 2018 remains. Government must ensure that the digital tax system puts the needs of businesses first, and that adequate time is given for pilot schemes so that we get MTD right once it returns.

Make Whitehall fit for purpose

Government must ensure that Whitehall is fit for purpose and that it is equipped with the right skills and capabilities to manage the complexity of Brexit while delivering on its domestic agenda.

Government needs to generate income in order to invest in the economy while paying down the national debt; however the latest public sector figures show the UK deficit rising faster than expected. While national government is not a business, a more commercially-minded approach would allow Government to raise revenue.

Invest in an agile and adaptable workforce

Improving the UK’s skills base is necessary to improve productivity and living standards, enabling people to access skilled jobs and higher wages. Alongside poor performance in the areas of numeracy and literacy, the UK has lagged behind competitors in developing a world-class technical education system.

To uplift skills levels in the UK, the next Government must support the provision of skills needed in the workplace and boost the status of technical educational programmes and apprenticeships. It must also close regional disparity by take into account the significant regional differences in the availability of skills.