Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

Strictly Business

Published Thursday 23 December, 2010

As UK plc splutters its way to the end of another year, Business should be raising a glass to some sterling efforts in some quarters and consigning others to the "nil points" category.

The biggest prize goes to our manufacturing sector. In "Strictly-Speak" it gets four tens! Helped by a low pound, from automotive to aerospace, from pharmaceuticals to electronics, UK Manufacturing has gone for it big-time. Creating jobs, flying the flag and generating the profits to pay the tax to build the schools and hospitals... Now we just have to get the politicians and the media to get it! 

A good "Seven!" from Len Goodman goes to our Schools. Getting better for sure but still so much room for improvement at the basic level. Why this Government abandoned the Schools Building Programme is beyond me; how do you persuade a kid from a challenged environment that going to school matters when you also tell him that those Dickensian school buildings are where he's going to carry on attending (or not, as increasingly the case becomes). At least the Education Budget escaped the massive cuts but it really must be "all hands to the pumps" to get the current scholastic generation fit for the World of Work in our fight to meet the innovative and value-added challenge of Asia's century.

The Dunce's Cap goes to a fair few. From BAA who cannot deliver a World-class operation in expected snow at the primary airport of the fifth largest economy on Earth to match the much-needed promotion of Brand-Britain, through a Brussels that can see nothing wrong in insisting the member states increase their budget contributions at a time of cut-backs everywhere in the EU to an increased and woefully mistaken belief at Westminster and Whitehall that the more Business is fettered by red-tape and increased taxation the more it will want to employ people in Britain, generate profit in Britain and be proud of operating in Britain. 

For millions of lower-paid employees in the private sector the year ends with some much-welcomed realism seeping into the public realm and the sound of the proverbial penny dropping is increasingly noisy. As they battle through the snow to earn less on a comparative basis than their counterparts in the public sector, they know that the latter are going to feel the uncomfortable wind of productivity-enhancing change just like they have had to do for many years; they know that those families who have never contributed and have lived off their taxes are increasingly going to have to account for themselves; they know that students can no longer expect their taxes to shoulder so much of the burden of providing them with a

University Education that will never benefit them and they know that richer people are no longer going to enjoy Child Benefit from the tax they pay. The private sector pays for the public sector in all its forms and the real payers are not the so-called fat cats with

their bonuses but the armies of fabulous employees all over the Country in all sorts of jobs and Businesses without whom there would not be a single nurse or teacher, soldier or policeman.

It is to them we should be raising a glass to this Christmas.