IoD ruffles feathers with radical growth plan

No right to request flexible working or time to train, no more collective bargaining...The IoD isn't pulling any punches with its proposed pro-growth 'freebies'...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
How do you boost UK growth without spending any money? It's a question that the Government has, so far, been apparently unwilling or unable to answer. But the Institute of Directors has come up with its own 24-point plan, which it reckons will cost nothing and 'immediately enhance' the country’s growth prospects. Sounds good, in principle. But some of the measures are so employer-friendly - like a ban on flexible working requests, and a ban on collective bargaining in the public sector - that even some of its own members might be a little uncomfortable about backing them...

The IoD's all in favour of the Governemnt's cuts strategy. But it thinks more must be done to boost the supply-side of the economy and help the private sector – principally by improving infrastructure and making the labour market more employer-friendly. Well, much more employer-friendly, actually. 'We need to make it easier and cheaper for companies to employ people,' says the report (which is effectively a kind of parting shot from the IoD's soon-to-be-outgoing D-G Miles Templeman).

In practice, this means a complete overhaul of employment law to help small firms - to include scrapping the right to request both flexible working and time off for training, on the grounds that both create extra red tape (which is true) and don't really work anyway (which is more debatable). It also thinks the Government should ban collective bargaining in the NHS and education sectors, and argues that all tribunal complainants should be forced to cough up a £500 deposit. A 'Thatcherite fantasy world', was, not surprisingly, the union reaction to all this.

You have to hand it to the IoD: it hasn't been backwards in coming forwards here. It also wants to release a load of green belt land for development and speed up the planning process so central Government can ride rough-shod over local objections (a little undemocratic, arguably). And it wants the new Regional Growth Funds to be targeted at winners, not losers - which, in practice, would presumably mean that the areas that need the money most (in terms of regeneration) are least likely to get it.

UK business leaders will be four-square behind many of the IoD's proposals - notably on tax, where it wants the Government to commit to pushing down corporation tax still further and abolishing the 50p income tax rate. And privately, they might well agree with some of the more controversial proposals about employment law and planning regulations. Equally, it may well be that this kind of radical action could indeed provide a spur to growth, as the IoD believes.

But there's something so apparently regressive about measures like abolishing the flexible working right that it's a little hard to imagine them attracting widespread popular support. Frankly, we're not sure the Government would dare.

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