Lord Heseltine agreed. “There is no army of people looking to increase their debt,” he stated, also asserting that this is reasonable in a time of low confidence.
In such a context, Heseltine argued, it becomes ever more important to effectively stimulate competitive spirit. He is confident that his plan to deliver regional business funding, won in competition between 39 local enterprise partnerships, is an effective way of doing this, if coupled with better capability in the nationwide network of the British Chambers of Commerce and sector trade bodies. The UK compares unfavourably with European peers when it comes to the clout and strategic alignment of these networks.
Heseltine’s plan for growth is driven by a belief that the UK must raise its average business performance. “It is easy to find examples of excellence in Britain,” he said. “But the global economy will judge us on our average.”
Negativity ill received
The positivity of Jim O’Neill and Lord Heseltine was well received by most delegates in stark contrast to the negative campaigning of shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. While delegates welcomed news that Sir John Armitt has been tasked with finding ways to reduce the impact of party political interests in long term policy making, most were doubtful that any real difference could be made to such an embedded aspect of British politics.
It was also observed that, while Mr Balls preached long termism and identified the need for an industrial strategy, he failed to acknowledge or respond to the strategy issued by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills last September. He also sidestepped a request from one delegate that Labour should adopt EEF’s industrial strategy, Route to Growth published in November.