Weekly Policy Report 6– 10 March 2023

It’s been a particularly busy week for us in the Policy Team. There is a buzz floating around our office in anticipation of the Spring Budget, though we think it should be called the Prolonged Winter Budget, since as far as we’re concerned snow does not constitute as Spring. But while the cold weather persists, things are hotting up in the policy world…

A bit off, Ofgem – We wrote to Ofgem to tell them 1 in 5 of our members have encountered at least one form of negative treatment by energy suppliers in the previous six months. The most common reported behaviour was requesting a larger share of the bill to be paid in advance. Find more on this here. It was also covered in this Financial Times article.

Feeling flat – The latest ONS release has shown that the UK economy grew by 0.3% in January. However, on a quarterly basis, it remained flat. We wouldn’t normally be the first to celebrate a flat economy, but economic performance has been better than the Chancellor predicted at the time of the Autumn Statement, so there is more room for manoeuvre in next week’s Budget. Here is our release.

Getting our act together – Our most recent policy survey showed nearly 8 in 10 businesses agree that the UK government should subsidise green industries and innovations in its effort to tackle climate change. The US has the Inflation Reduction Act, the EU has its Green Deal Industrial Plan. Here’s our proposal for the UK should do. This claimed spots in The Times (twice), the Guardian, the Daily Mail (twice), on the Today programme (from 15.38), the Evening Standard and the Telegraph.

International women’s day – On Wednesday it was International Women’s Day. We are encouraged by the European Gender Diversity Barometer, which shows the UK has made strong progress in improving female representation on boards in the past decade. There is of course more to be done, but we think this is worth celebrating in the meantime. Our view is here.

A cross-channel rendezvous – The PM is off to Paris for a tête-à-tête with French President Macron to discuss all things fishing licences, migration, defence, energy cooperation, and how the UK and France can be better friends in the future. This comes after relations across the Channel have been a little chilly since Brexit. Find more on this here.

Childcare costs… you must be kidding – Our Principal Policy Advisor on Sustainability, Employment and Skills, Alex Hall-Chen, featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme to discuss the impact of childcare costs on businesses. Members have told us they are concerned about the cost of childcare, and more employers are telling us they are looking into different ways they can help staff who need childcare. Listen to Alex talk about this here (time stamp 2:17:20). You can also find her on BBC News here.

Emerging opportunities – We are conducting research into our members’ approaches to international exporting. Since post-Brexit trade has been somewhat trickier, we are finding members are looking to new markets to send their goods or services to. They are finding opportunities in emerging markets where there is more demand and often less local competition. Read our analysis on African markets here.

Policy Voice – Our latest policy survey is live, and should be waiting for you in your inboxes. We want to hear our members’ views on what they actually think of ESG, whether they offer apprenticeships, and how confident they are feeling in the UK economy. These results will be important contributions to our ongoing work with government: we will be producing a policy paper on the ESG debate next month, we are working closely with the Department for Education on combatting skills shortages, and we send our business confidence index to the government each month. Find out about Policy Voice here.

Next week watch out for…

Monday 13 March

  • The ballot opens in the Scottish National Party Leadership election following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation on 15 February

Tuesday 14 March

  • ONS will publish unemployment data for that shows levels of unemployment in January 2023

Wednesday 15 March

  • Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will announce his Spring Budget

  • Ahead of the Chancellor’s Budget statement, our Chief Economist Kitty Ussher will be live on BBC News at 9.30am and then interviewed by Sophy Ridge on Sky News at 11.10am. Following the Budget, she will be Radio 4’s The World Tonight at 10pm.

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