Dear George,I met your lovely mum and dad – Felicity and Peter – some while back, and they seemed like reasonable folks who would bring up their son with old fashioned values of fairness and common sense. So I’m banking on you doing the right thing in this next Budget, which means keeping a tight rein on the finances while injecting a bit of badly-needed confidence all round. I’ve spoken to some creative CEOs from really entrepreneurial companies and they reckon these ideas would go a long way to kick starting growth and a bit of feel-good:
1. EmploymentIf you relax the dismissal regulations – as Steve Hilton recommended before he was exiled to the US – you will allow us to start taking on new people without ending up in a tribunal if they don’t work out. If we increase our headcount, give us an NI break for the first year, with under 21s at zero, and we will really make a dent in the unemployment figures.
2. SpendingThe high street is becoming a ghost town. Reduce VAT to 15 per cent and get us shopping again.
3. StartupsIntroduce a fast-track system that cuts through red-tape and encourages spirited people – both old and young – to have a go at running their own business.
4. InnovationGive us tax breaks and soft loans to stimulate innovation and smart thinking on new projects that generate economic revival.
5. Bank watchSet up a team to deal with claims from businesses who feel they are being treated unfairly by our nationalised banks. Stop these banks from over-pricing and rejecting robust business plans, giving us a place to go if they say “no”.
6. First home helpThe average age of a first-time buyer is now 38! The biggest factor in our confidence and outlook is the value of our largest asset, the property we live in. Abolish stamp duty on properties valued at less than £250,000 and guarantee 50 per cent mortgages for first-time buyers up to this limit. These initiatives, taken as a whole, will do much to make us feel that the government and the business world are working together towards a common goal. SMEs of fewer than 200 people produce 67 per cent of our GDP – we need to recognise their contribution, celebrate their enterprise and build on it. George, don’t delay – the time for boldness that will brighten our mood and re-fill our bank accounts – is now. With respect and presumptuous appreciation, Andrew Andrew Morris is CEO of the Academy of Chief Executives.
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