Let's lower the cost of doing business in the UK

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This week we've been blogging about the how the Chancellor could set out a stronger, clearer strategy for growth at this year's Budget.

So far we have set out three bold ambitions for 2015, and associated measures of progress, that we think would form the core of this stronger vision:

• More companies bringing new products and services to market;• More globally-focused companies choosing to expand in the UK;• A more productive, more flexible labour force.

The final ambition we have is to have a lower cost of doing business in the UK.

High regulation, energy, and tax costs discourage job creation in the UK. These costs also have a deadweight effect, creating a high baseline cost of servicing human resources and compliance processes which detract from the productive capacity of business.

Lowering the cost of doing business in the UK will help existing firms to succeed in international markets and attract new ones to locate here.

The government already does have some ideas in this space for example with its one-in, one-out policy on regulation or its commitment to have the lowest corporate tax rate in the G7.

But UK businesses need to see the government commit to going further.

A firmer commitment is needed to cut the burden of regulation. Merely stemming the flow of cost in regulations is not enough. We want to see a reduction of 10% in the time and money spent complying with domestic regulation.

We also need to address the long-term deterioration in the competiveness of the UK's electricity prices. It's fine to want to develop the green economy but why does it have to be at the expense of UK industry? Since 2006 the UK's largest industrial consumers have paid 19% more than the EU average.

The Chancellor needs to make good on his call to not extend ourselves further than our European competitors, we want to see him go slightly better and commit to having industrial electricity prices below the EU average.

Our competitors are also constantly seeking to improve the competitiveness of their tax systems, we need an ongoing effort to hit what will continue to be a moving target.

As mentioned above this is an area where the government is making some good progress on headline corporate tax rates. But creating yhe most competitive tax system in the G20 must be on a range of measures well beyond the headline rate of corporation tax.

It needs to include areas like support the tax system gives for R&D or capital investment and how our system taxes jobs too.

These three key areas – regulation, electricity prices, and tax – form the basis of our ambition to have a demonstrably lower cost of doing business in the UK in 2015 compared with 2010.

Together with the other three ambitions and associated measures, this forms EEF's proposal for a clearer, stronger strategy for growth. We hope the Chancellor responds with vigour in his Budget speech on Wednesday.


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