BCC reacts to Conservative Party conference speeches

October 5, 2023

Following the Chancellor’s announcement of an increase in the living wage, Jane Gratton, Deputy Director of Policy at the BCC, said: “It’s important that wages rise proportionately to maintain living standards and that people can cope with the cost-of-living crisis.

“But business conditions remain among the hardest in generations and employers are struggling to contain wage inflation.

“Firms have seen lasting damage caused by Covid lockdowns, a global supply chain crisis, new trade barriers with the EU, unprecedented energy costs, and significant skills shortages.

“On top of this, rises in interest rates have compounded problems for those carrying more debt due to the pandemic.  There is a limit to how much new cost that firms can absorb.

“The government needs to be cautious in setting future wage rate rises. We need to strike the right balance between boosting pay and ensuring the very survival of some firms is not put in jeopardy.”

On the Secretary of State for Business and Trade’s comments about Brexit and trade issues, William Bain, Head of Trade, said: “Boosting exports is key to the UK’s future economic prosperity, but firms of all sizes are facing a wide range of stumbling blocks. These include inflationary pressures, a restructuring of global supply chains and the continuing flow of new requirements from the EU trading relationship.

“Our most recent survey of SME exporters found half had seen no change in overseas sales, and almost a quarter (24%) reported a decrease. The last time more than 30% of firms saw increased export sales was in 2018.

“If the Government wants to get more firms trading overseas then we need to set up an Exports Council to focus on boosting the UK’s services, green industries, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing exports.

“There also needs to be much greater focus on the shift to digital trade now that the legal framework is in place.”