There are some pronounced differences between what the various political parties are offering, and the outcome will have significant repercussions for the future direction of the country.
Today, ICAEW has launched our campaign, ‘GE2019: It’s More Than a Vote’, to engage with leading political figures via social media and offer our insight and expertise on the biggest challenges facing our economy and society.
As in previous elections, ICAEW will remain non-partisan, but will be providing analysis of the implications of policy proposals in the context of the public interest.
Of course, for many, this election is primarily about Brexit – on what terms the UK leaves the European Union, or indeed if it leaves at all.
ICAEW has repeatedly called for greater economic and regulatory certainty and stability in Brexit planning, so that businesses are able to prepare and plan ahead.
The findings of our latest UK Business Confidence Monitor underline the importance of this. Confidence continues to weaken, reaching its lowest level since early 2009 – the height of the fallout from the economic crisis. Sales growth is slowing – with exports particularly weak – as is growth in investment, and productivity growth remains stubbornly flat. Expectations for the year ahead have also fallen.
On the assumption that Brexit does take place, we continue to press hard for the UK to leave the EU with a deal, in order to ensure as little disruption as possible.
We’ve been supporting our members – particularly those in practice and working in SMEs – with hard copy collateral and a digital campaign, via support from the Government’s Business Readiness Fund. We also continue to update our online Brexit hub.
There is also a need for the national political debate to move to other issues which are vital to the UK’s economic and social success.
We have 140,000 members in the UK, who work across all parts of the economy and advise more than three million businesses here. These members have helped us to identify some of the key challenges for the UK – which we believe must feature high on the agenda for all parties during this election campaign and beyond.
We want to see policies to harness the technological innovation that will drive national productivity.
HMRC continues to digitalise the administration of the UK tax system, most notably with the rollout of ‘Making Tax Digital’. Further digitalisation is planned, and it will be incumbent on any government to ensure that the practical implications are fully and properly considered.
For example, we believe that tax policy development could be improved by building in digitalisation from the outset, including how the additional burden on taxpayers and businesses is estimated. ICAEW’s Tech Faculty has produced a report which examines how digital technologies have been utilised by international tax authorities to reduce costs and improve compliance – outcomes that any incoming government should aspire to.
We want the UK to lead the way towards a zero-carbon future.
The climate emergency is undoubtedly the greatest challenge facing any government, both practically and from a public policy perspective. There has been progress in the UK – for example on decarbonisation and green finance – but tackling climate change needs to go further and faster.
The UK needs to build a resilient economy which prioritises sustainability in our approach to risk, insurance and corporate governance. Information about the effect of business on the environment, as well as the impact of environmental changes on business, is increasingly forming a core part of annual reports and financial statements, and there is now significant public demand for businesses to operate – and be seen to be operating – sustainably.
ICAEW’s own research has found that more than twice as many of our members in business viewed regulation as a driver of change compared to pressure from investors – highlighting the importance of an effective regulatory structure.
We want our public finances to be sustainable, and to enable us to deliver quality public services without indebting future generations.
Of course, an urgent priority needs to be scrutiny of the recent Spending Round, as well as any forthcoming Budget.
We believe that making tax cuts and increasing public spending will result in increased borrowing and reverse the progress made in reducing the deficit. The UK also needs a long-term fiscal strategy for achieving sustainable public finances. Such a strategy should encompass the whole balance sheet, including how a better understanding of public assets can inform decisions, as well as addressing the £4.3tn of public sector liabilities set out in the Whole of Government Accounts.
Our campaign aims to put these issues at the heart of the public conversation. We want our members, with the important roles they play across the country, to lead the way and involve their local candidates and indeed any other politicians.
Please consider retweeting our short film, ‘It’s More Than a Vote’ – and if you chose to retweet with a comment, tag your local candidates to bring them into the conversation. You can find out who your local candidates are at this link.
This election is an opportunity for the voice of our profession to be heard - please speak up.
For more on this and other matters, please follow me on Twitter @MichaelIzza.