Bosses say ditch foreign aid and focus on growth

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Business chiefs want to see social security and foreign aid budgets slashed to pay for a programme of capital investment to boost Britain’s flagging economy.

A major survey published today suggests that firms favour a reallocation of resources away from costly day-to-day spending obligations towards capital projects that will spur growth.

The poll of some 1,800 firms by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that the present balance between capital investment and current spending was “far out of line” with business perceptions and expectations.

The group is calling for a greater focus on investing in areas such as transport, energy, education, digital and other local economic infrastructure, such as road maintenance and house building.

It has joined demands for an end to ring-fencing of some departmental budgets “for short-term political gains”, ahead of the government’s spending review later this month.

Priority should go to economic development, including trade promotion and business support, according to 68 per cent of those polled. The least important areas were foreign aid – seen as critical by just 1 per cent of businesses – and social security. BCC director general John Longworth said: “Our spending review submission, based on business opinion, is calling for a radical shift of focus towards areas like infrastructure, economic development and skills – the big enablers of an enterprise-friendly economy.”

SCOTT REID