Deeper cuts needed to fuel growth

Words of warning from BCC's chief John Longworth
Words of warning from BCC's chief John Longworth
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The UK faces more belt-tightening and “real austerity” to achieve sustainable economic growth, according to the head of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC)

John Longworth, the group’s director-general, said Chancellor George Osborne had “bought time” on restoring growth.

But he told the BCC’s annual conference in London: “Contrary to popular opinion, we haven’t really seen austerity in the way it has been applied to many countries around the eurozone, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland in particular.

“The next stage of debt reduction will require more belt-tightening, possibly even real austerity in some quarters.”

Longworth said “deep, lasting and profound structural reform” was needed to achieve growth.

“I have said it before and I cannot repeat it enough – achieving sustainable great growth should be and must be the number one priority of any government, and our political class needs to be more economically literate and business- orientated.”

Longworth said Britain was now a “niche economy” in the world, with just 3 per cent of global GDP.

“But our political class have not yet fully recognised and capitalised on this. They are still playing the power politics of the age of empires rather than taking their cues from the earlier merchant trader nation that was the historic bedrock of our prosperity.”

Longworth also made a plea for more to be done to forge links between business and education. “The schools system must throw up and prepare those individuals who have academic ability, but who do not currently have access to universities, by whatever means, for the sake of the economy.

“If that requires education tailored to ability and aptitude, then the educational establishment need to get over it. But it’s not at the pure academic end of the spectrum of our talent pool that we have the greatest problems. Some educational institutions do a great job linking with employers, but far too many have lost the vocational plot.”