Businesses are hoping for a budget that gives them a real boost
- Credit: PA
Business leaders must take urgent action to push the needs of UK plc up the political agenda to ensure the private sector can keep creating wealth for the country.
That is view of James Brown, Norwich practice leader of business advisers Grant Thornton, who wants industry chiefs to shout louder about the virtues of Norfolk and Suffolk companies ahead of May's general election.
His clarion call comes amid fears that businesses will have their demands ignored as politicians tailor their policies towards winning the hearts and minds of the general public.
The push follows fresh calls from business pressure groups for the chancellor to help companies in this week's budget by handing tax breaks to medium-sized businesses (MSBs) and the oil and gas sector.
Mr Brown said: 'The obvious subjects will dominate the election campaign and we have already had a taste of this in connection with the challenges faced within the NHS A&E departments. Europe will also feature strongly, as will environmental issues and further devolution – to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as to the regions.
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'But all of these things, and the spending and cost-saving implications that follow as a consequence, need to be paid for.
'Without a vibrant business sector which encourages start-ups, nurtures business growth and allows corporates to prosper, all the while rightly rewarding those stakeholders who have taken the risks to make the business work, we will not have the levels of tax revenue necessary to provide the essential public services we have grown to expect.'
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Hopes that George Osborne will unveil a raft of business boosting measures have been dampened by his intent to limit spending and deliver a 'fiscally neutral' budget.
But the Confederation of British Industry believes the chancellor can help MSBs without dipping too far into the public purse. The CBI wants the chancellor to use the money saved from reforming public services to help MSBs by paying for the cost of making the investment allowance permanent and enhancing the research and development tax credit.
Mr Brown also believes that helping MSBs must remain on the political radar on the run up to the election. He said: 'I believe passionately that people like me need to stand up for business. I also believe, as it happens, that too many in the professional services business community do not do enough to speak out for their constituents – those who actually start up, grow and run businesses. This is especially true for the MSBs segment who often have their needs overlooked by policy makers in favour of those of the megaphone-voiced larger entities who have the resources to put forward and argue their own cases; as well as small businesses who enjoy a plethora of support from bodies such as the Chambers of Commerce and Federation of Small Businesses.
'These are controversial comments and may very well cause me to be dropped from a few people's Christmas card lists. But we need to create a community of many who will speak out for business, putting to one side professional business rivalry for the common good.
'I call on all Norfolk business leaders, especially those in the professional services community, to act on behalf of and represent the interests of our local businesses as we head through this election campaign.'
Visit www.edp24.co.uk for live budget coverage on Wednesday.