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Industry asks Chancellor for help on training and employment rights


The British Chambers of Commerce are encouraging Gordon Brown to tackle regulations on business and address the poor levels of skills and training in Britain. Their proposals, which represent the views of 135,000 small to medium sized business members, call for:
– A locum service of self-employed temps to help firms find cover during maternity and parental leave
– Greater funding for the DTI Work/Life Balance Challenge Fund, which should be made available solely to employers of 250 or less employees
– Training Needs Analyses – a diagnostic service to identify training needs
– To encourage and reward employees to train in their own time, employers should be able to make an award on attainment of a designated qualification, up to £500 – tax and NI free
– Centre for Applied Learning – to develop learning materials for children and teacher training, which apply the school curriculum to a business context

Anthony Goldstone, President of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Government is asking a lot from small employers to meet various new employment rights being introduced over the next two years. If these engines of growth and employment in our economy are not to seize up, it is important that Government balances the obligations it imposes with sufficient support. We are suggesting a package of support, which is well within the Government’s means, and could make a huge difference to employers and employees alike.”

To further encourage investment in industry, the BCC recommends raising the first year capital allowance limit for SMEs to 100 per cent, putting the 100 per cent capital allowance for SME spending on ICT on a permanent footing and making the costs of raising equity tax deductible. On innovation, Chambers urge Government to write off a proportion of student loans for science students that sustain careers in manufacturing or other science related industries.

On taxes, the BCC believes the Government should take a broadly neutral fiscal stance. It suggests that to cut personal taxes at this present time would stoke inflation, and to raise them would risk curbing consumer spending. On competition, ahead of the Government’s Enterprise Bill, the BCC strongly supports the emphasis on reform including the proposal to introduce criminal penalties for managers engaged in hard-core cartels. To enhance the Bill further, the BCC suggests:
– There should be explicit procedures for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to hear and deal with business claims of unfair competition from the public sector
– The OFT should be given sufficient powers and resource to investigate and act against monopoly buyers as well as suppliers

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