Caroline Williams - Chancellor George Osborne needs to bridge the reality gap on pro-growth rhetoric

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
9:00 AM

As we await the Chancellor’s Autumn statement today, it is essential that the government pulls out all the stops to enable Norfolk businesses to grow, invest and create jobs.

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Too often there is an “expectation gap” between the government’s pro-growth rhetoric and the reality on the ground.

Freezing council taxes while introducing a 5.6pc rise in business rates earlier this year just adds to the confusing messages from Whitehall.

Norfolk businesses want to see follow through on commitments to reduce regulations, as well as the delivery of substantive reform of the planning system, and improving public procurement.

It is vital to promote business and export growth, support construction and house-building and enable private investment in capital and infrastructure.

Cutting red tape remains a key objective for the Norfolk Chamber as we head towards 2013.

Business and Enterprise minister Michael Fallon announced recently that as part of the government’s red tape blitz a new One-in Two-out rule will be imposed across every Whitehall department from January 2013.

This will mean that for every one pound of new UK regulations imposed, two pounds of savings will need to be found by departments to offset this. The new system will apply to domestic regulation affecting businesses and voluntary organisations. This is similar to the previous system of ‘One-in, One-out’ which required the costs of every new regulation to be matched by savings of an equivalent amount.

At Norfolk Chamber, we welcome this measure, which should help to reduce the unnecessary amount of red tape facing companies.

Some regulation is undeniably needed with the ‘right kind’ leading to economic benefits – this is in contrast to needless bureaucracy at the moment which can prevent companies from growing, innovating and creating jobs.

Businesses from across the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce network consistently tell us they are spending time dealing with unnecessary regulations that should be spent growing their companies.

This regulatory change, whilst welcome, will only apply to the regulations currently deemed ‘in scope’ of the current framework. This effectively means that a large chunk of regulations affecting business, including EU regulations, are excluded from the process.

For this system to work and be successful, the relevant regulations must be in scope of the system.

As we head into 2013, however, there is much to look forward to here in Norfolk. We will see the start of the dualling of the A11, work will begin to achieve faster broadband, there is a lot of good work happening relating to apprenticeships, while there are also amazing supply chain opportunities are on the horizon.

There is no doubt that times are economically challenging, but Norfolk businesses are definitely up to the challenge and I am really looking forward to the business community working together to make a difference both to individual businesses and Norfolk’s economy as a whole.

Caroline Williams is chief executive of Norfolk Chamber

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