The UK economy continues to lurch sideways as little or no progress is made with the EEU and prospects of a hard Brexit increase. There is talk of Government agencies beginning to formulate plans for such a scenario which can only increase the nervousness of potential investors and further delay any ambition that our businesses may have to expand.
As I talk to members across the region, particularly in business, there is a consistent theme of concern that this limbo cannot continue without their businesses and the general economy suffering. The latest inflation figures published show that the 3% barrier has been breached and with some staple goods prices growing even more quickly and on an upward trajectory. Pressure for wage increases is growing and the Chancellor will find it increasing more difficult to hold fast to the austerity measures currently in place as public sector services continue to be squeezed and generate greater outcry from their users.
The Solution? Essentially all roads lead to Westminster and the Government. When it comes to EU negotiations and setting the conditions under which our economy must operate these are clearly in the current administration’s hands. An unenviable task but one that should be done with as much reliable information as possible. I doubt if that information includes much commentary from business outside of the South East community partly because there seems no conduit for this to happen and partly because there doesn’t appear to be any coherent view from the South West itself.
So what can you do? Well certainly a lone voice won’t be heard and perhaps even a co-ordinated voice will find it hard, but we should be trying. I’ve been working in the South West now for 6 months and I have yet to find a place to discuss this or voice views. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right place but it seems to me that there is a space that ICAEW could help to fill if we can get our act together.
I’ve appealed before for business orientated members to attend the Business Breakfasts held across the region where we discuss the economy and you can feed views into us. Or how about being part of the ICAEW South West Strategy Board which meets in Taunton and tries to bring together those views into a strategy for me to work to? Any of you who are involved in LEPs, Chambers of Commerce or other business bodies would be particularly welcome to help integrate ICAEW into these other key bodies.
It really is important that we, ICAEW and you the members, are active in our local business networks and if I can strengthen these links and our Strategy Board perhaps we can make our voice heard even over in corridors of power beside the Thames!
Martin J Warren FCA
Director for the South West