Friday, 21 October 2011

Confidence is the key!

When preparing a briefing for a visiting dignitary recently I was reminded that, despite the seemingly continuous onslaught of bad news, we lived and worked in an area which had a great deal going for it. Certainly times are tough and I acknowledge that some people will be feeling the effects more than others. Nonetheless, there are a great many things to be grateful for which, among other reasons, is presumably why so many companies have decided to invest here. Certainly it can be argued that a number of our large companies have traditional ties to the area and are therefore more likely to remain, but that ignores the fact that their principle decision makers are no longer UK based and in an age of greater mobility they have other options. That they choose to stay here must be due to factors beyond geographical longevity. Location and local amenities are obviously key factors and surely on that count there can be few places that are better situated. Close to three international airports. Convenient for the UKs road network. Access to quality education. Adjacent to some wonderful countryside and on London’s doorstep with access to national and European rail networks. The ability to recruit a skilled workforce with its roots in a number of the key sectors is clearly a condition that is non-negotiable. When one aggregates these features and combines them with the existence of a reliable, broadly based supply chain I can see no reason why the area would not be the ‘location of choice’ for any business wishing to invest in the UK. True I am somewhat biased but I truly believe that the facts speak for themselves. My point? It’s simple we continue to be bombarded with bad news by a national media that has turned being a gloom merchant into something of a national sport. How can we sensationalise a situation to cast those involved or the circumstances surrounding them in the worst possible light? As the tired old phrase goes ‘good news is no news’. True, the prevailing trends are not what we would wish them to be. True, the global omens leave little room for optimism. And true, it may be some little time before we sense that relief is on its way. The fact, though, is that we have a number of fantastic businesses locally which, if properly supported and cherished, will play a key role in pulling us out of the doldrums. Confidence is the key, it is essential ingredient in developing the recovery While there may be little cause for dancing in the streets we should not be overdoing the gloom bit either.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Businesses are the wealth creators and should be respected as such

Ed Milliband in his speech to the Labour Party Conference spoke of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ companies apparently judging them on whether they were community minded or not. It reminded me of a question I am often asked ‘why don’t businesses contribute more’. My stock answer? ‘What, apart from providing over 300,000 jobs in the county, paying many tens of millions of pounds in business rates and taxes not to mention the support that many give to local charities, schools, etc.’ I could add that without the many successful businesses we have in this country people would not be able to pay their mortgages, nobody would meet the cost of health care and the transport system would grind to a halt. I could have course say a great deal more but usually by that point I have become more than a little ‘tetchy’ and further comment might become somewhat less measured in tone and content.

Whether Mr Milliband and his friends like it or not businesses are the wealth creators and should be respected as such. Certainly if you dig very deep you will find some that fall short of the high standards most of us set but, frankly, however you legislate you will have little impact on them. As I have said many times in this column the country needs business men and women many of whom are prepared to risk their homes, reputation and a great deal more to build and grow the organisations that are essential to the wellbeing of us all. It should also be said that by and large these businesses are created at no expense to the Government and if the people that have invested in them reap rich rewards good luck to them, sadly of course many do not.

What we need from politicians is not the all too frequent gibes but their genuine, well considered support by creating an economic environment that enables us all to prosper. Regardless of whom it might be, or what party they represent, it is my view that we are all more than a little tired of their posturing and apparent unwillingness to stick their heads over the parapet in an effort to find solutions to what currently ails us all. I think it was Tony Blair that commented that unless politicians are in government there is little they can do which may be true but, surely, a politician without conviction is even less use whether in government or not.

All this is important because currently politicians seem to focus more effort on attaching blame and opprobrium to their opponents than they do on finding solutions. Frankly I do not care who said what to whom or who is to blame for the situation we find ourselves in, I want to know who is going to come up with the solutions that are required to move us forward. I recognise that not all suggestions will work but the inert nature of the current debate is not going to get us anywhere either.

If they are struggling for ideas how about extending the NI holiday for start-ups to cover places like Hertfordshire, it might just increase the number of jobs available and result in even more in taxation. How about speeding up the planning system, there has been much talk on this subject but I remain to be convinced that the proposals currently being discussed will make much difference.

Perhaps, all the new employment legislation that is in the pipe line could be consigned to ‘the long grass’. I feel sure that with a little thought a great many more ideas could be brought forward without undermining government spending plans and, more importantly, that just might restore confidence in both our economy and our politicians. Oh and by the way Mr Milliband, I work on the presumption that all businesses are good businesses unless and until they are proved to be otherwise.