Politicians must do the business by Tim Hutchings, chief executive, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerc

PRIOR to the date of the election announcement the debate about moving the economy forward was largely sterile and, frankly, revealed politicians of all persuasions in a pretty poor light. Given the adversarial nature of our politics this was to be expected but now is the time for government to get down to the business of turning things around, it will not be easy and they will not be universally popular as they put in place the measures required to do so. In time, of course, they will be a lot less popular if they fail to do so.How they go about cutting down public spending will be of interest to all, the usual method seems to involve indiscriminate salami’ slicing; this is quick, in the short term it saves money but sadly cuts away the good with the bad. This approach often ends up with the reinstatement of funding and additional costs to deal with the unintended consequences of ill considered actions. What is needed is a surgical approach striking quickly where it is needed. If the sufficient savings fail to emerge from this approach then, fair enough, a blunter instrument will have to be applied.As public spending is taken out of the economy we must also take the opportunity to rectify the mistakes of the past. Sure we must support the so-called added value’ sectors but we might also consider how we might re-introduce the pride we had in being a manufacturing nation. Of course I recognise that manufacturing in the UK has changed forever but I strongly believe we need to reverse its decline. We talk glibly, for instance, about introducing sustainable energy measures but have to import the equipment required to do so from afar. Wherever one looks we have developed world leading technologies and then allowed someone else to exploit them. Fine, you argue, but it is inevitable that manufacturing will move to parts of the world where they can provide cheap labour – surely we can get by simply retaining the R & D. Sorry but in this highly mechanised world I do not entirely buy that argument; in any case experience suggests that ultimately R & D follows the manufacturing.In my view we have spent a couple of decades sleepwalking towards a very steep cliff. Certainly we have had many conspicuous successes but the fact is that given the nature of our society we will need an economy that uses all its resources. No longer will we be able to rub along simply doing ok. It is vital that we up our game’ across the board. Cuts alone will not do the trick, we will need to see improvement and a focused approach in a variety of areas including education and training, supporting new industries and raising the performance of those we already have. We have a strong commercial and industrial base upon which to build but if we have learnt anything from recent experiences I hope it is that economies cannot be built simply by pursuing ideas emanating from some guru who happens to be the flavour of the month; nor do economies benefit from throwing money about without focus or properly defined purpose. After the last recession we called for a low inflation, low interest economy; we have that. This time we need to add in a sensible programme of government expenditure designed to help support and develop a balance economy.

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RIOR to the date of the election announcement the debate about moving the economy forward was largely sterile and, frankly, revealed politicians of all persuasions in a pretty poor light.

Given the adversarial nature of our politics this was to be expected but now is the time for government to get down to the business of turning things around, it will not be easy and they will not be universally popular as they put in place the measures required to do so. In time, of course, they will be a lot less popular if they fail to do so.

How they go about cutting down public spending will be of interest to all, the usual method seems to involve indiscriminate 'salami' slicing; this is quick, in the short term it saves money but sadly cuts away the good with the bad. This approach often ends up with the reinstatement of funding and additional costs to deal with the unintended consequences of ill considered actions. What is needed is a surgical approach striking quickly where it is needed. If the sufficient savings fail to emerge from this approach then, fair enough, a blunter instrument will have to be applied.


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As public spending is taken out of the economy we must also take the opportunity to rectify the mistakes of the past. Sure we must support the so-called 'added value' sectors but we might also consider how we might re-introduce the pride we had in being a manufacturing nation. Of course I recognise that manufacturing in the UK has changed forever but I strongly believe we need to reverse its decline.

We talk glibly, for instance, about introducing sustainable energy measures but have to import the equipment required to do so from afar. Wherever one looks we have developed world leading technologies and then allowed someone else to exploit them. Fine, you argue, but it is inevitable that manufacturing will move to parts of the world where they can provide cheap labour - surely we can get by simply retaining the R & D. Sorry but in this highly mechanised world I do not entirely buy that argument; in any case experience suggests that ultimately R & D follows the manufacturing.

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In my view we have spent a couple of decades sleepwalking towards a very steep cliff. Certainly we have had many conspicuous successes but the fact is that given the nature of our society we will need an economy that uses all its resources. No longer will we be able to rub along simply doing ok. It is vital that we 'up our game' across the board. Cuts alone will not do the trick, we will need to see improvement and a focused approach in a variety of areas including education and training, supporting new industries and raising the performance of those we already have.

We have a strong commercial and industrial base upon which to build but if we have learnt anything from recent experiences I hope it is that economies cannot be built simply by pursuing ideas emanating from some guru who happens to be the 'flavour of the month; nor do economies benefit from throwing money about without focus or properly defined purpose. After the last recession we called for a low inflation, low interest economy; we have that. This time we need to add in a sensible programme of government expenditure designed to help support and develop a balance economy.

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