Home Manufacturing & Industry From the skills gap to decarbonisation – what North East businesses want...

From the skills gap to decarbonisation – what North East businesses want to see from Boris Johnson

(L-R): John Savage, Chris McDonald and Mike Odysseas

Much has been written of the Conservative Party’s landslide victory in the general election – which saw Labour’s previously solid North East heartland turn from red to Tory blue.

With the ‘party of business’ looking to develop policies to retain its new-found voters in the region, two entrepreneurs – along with the leader of a major industrial research centre – reflect on what they wish to see from the new Government.

John Savage, the founder and managing director of South Tyneside-based Flame Heating Group, said he wishes to see the Conservative Party keep to its pledge of encouraging entrepreneurs and innovation, tackling the skills gap and creating a fairer taxation system.

He wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year urging him to scrap the 5% VAT rate on domestic energy as soon the country departs the European Union.

“This rate is imposed on the UK by EU rules and its abolition would not only reduce fuel bills for low and middle-income families but would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the wider adoption of energy efficient technologies.

“I would urge the Prime Minister to look at abolishing the VAT rate as a matter of urgency.

“I also hope this decisive election result will usher in a period of stability and certainty which businesses require to be able to plan, invest and grow.”

Chris McDonald, chief executive of Teesside-based Materials Processing Institute, said that the 2019 election had at least seen all the main political parties agree on one thing – the need to develop a green net-zero emissions economy.

“There is a growing realisation among both the public and business that the UK must act decisively to reduce the effects of the ‘climate emergency’ and the Conservative Party has reiterated its pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“That means investing in our industry, power generation and transport systems to create thousands of low carbon jobs for generations to come.

“As part of this, the Conservative party has announced a £1bn growth fund which will be invested in the automotive industry to support the development of new electric vehicles and the exciting new hydrogen fuel cell technology.

“The Prime Minister has spoken about implementing a pro-business decarbonisation strategy. As a centre for research and innovation, the Institute is already leading the way in the development of advanced materials, low carbon energy the circular economy and digital technologies and we look forward to making a significant contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

Mike Odysseas, founder and managing director of Teesside-based telecommunications company Odyssey Systems, said the decisive election victory has put a permanent end to Labour’s ill-conceived pledge to nationalise Openreach, BT’s broadband infrastructure division.

He said: “This was part of Labour’s attempts to gain votes by promising free high-speed broadband to every UK home and business – despite the fact this technology might well be obsolete by the time it was introduced in 2030.

“This pledge would have had a devastating effect, leaving the industry’s 600 internet service providers without a market or a future and placing at jeopardy the jobs of 180,000 people currently employed in this sector.

“Not only that, but 95% of homes already have access to a fixed superfast broadband product and would have been an unnecessary waste of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash.

“I think that one of the most important aspects of this Conservative election victory as far as the telecoms industry is concerned is that it will help draw a line under what has been a protracted period of political disruption and uncertainty.

“I hope that it creates stability, allowing businesses to plan and invest in their future, which in turn will stimulate the economy.

“As far as the Conservatives are concerned, I look forward to seeing them fulfil their pledges to support entrepreneurs by introducing a fairer taxation system and by tackling the current skills gap.”