Business groups urge new Government goals to hike productivity and skills

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Business groups are urging the Government to be bold in its industrial policies to tackle the UK's long-term structural weaknesses.

Ministers should set measurable goals to improve productivity and skills, it was suggested.

On the final day of consultation on its industrial strategy, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and manufacturers' organisation EEF laid out business demands.

The CBI said there should be a target to reduce the productivity gap between the worst and best performing regions by 15% by 2030.

It wants the Government to commit to setting other targets that will measure the success of the new strategy.

These would include income levels, employment rates, income distribution and how economic activity is dispersed across the country.

The Government was urged to appoint an independent commissioner to ensure all regions of the UK have appropriate levels of devolution to deliver the strategy.

It was also called on to build a UK2030 brand to energise and unite the public and private sectors towards success, and establish an independent monitoring body to measure progress against specific performance targets.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said: "The UK is at the foothills of extraordinary change as we look to redefine our role in the world and adapt to rapid technological advances in the workplace.

"A new industrial strategy must aim to make the UK economy the most competitive in the world by 2030. 

"We must build on our leading knowledge base, drive a renaissance in our traditional heartlands of manufacturing and create a new wave of entrepreneurship by making the UK the easiest place to start and grow a business. 

"By doing this, we can raise productivity and improve lives in every community up and down the country."

EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said: "Successive governments have identified the UK's weak productivity performance and resolved to tackle it, arguably with little success.

"This time it can be different, however, and we have a real opportunity to make a step change in the UK's economic performance.

"The green paper is a positive first step in what will be an evolutionary process.

"A successful strategy must, however, be more than a list of policy action points.

"It has to be a framework for ensuring that all policy decisions take the UK economy closer to its goal of higher productivity, increased exports and greater investment in innovation."

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "Our modern industrial strategy represents an ambitious long-term vision for the UK that will build on our strengths as a country and deliver a high-skilled economy for the years ahead.

"The green paper was the beginning of an open dialogue to develop the industrial strategy. We welcome all contributions to the consultation and will consider the findings of each response carefully."