British Chambers of Commerce director general calls for development

The first meeting of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce and Businesses at Birmingham Airport was told massive infrastructure development is needed across the country.

West Midlands Chamber of Commerce
Mike Ashton, chair of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, John Longworth, director general of British Chambers of Commerce and John Morris, head of government and industry affairs, at Birmingham Airport

The first meeting of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce and Businesses at Birmingham Airport was told massive infrastructure development is needed across the country.

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said he was writing to the Chancellor the Exchequer calling for such a programme.

He has detailed a long list of projects and how to finance them and called on West Midlands businesses to add to the list.

“The UK’s deficit reduction programme has not achieved growth, and Whitehall stopped planning for infrastructure some 15 years ago, so the UK’s infrastructure is not good compared to Europe. Good infrastructure in the long term will create confidence and, in the short term, will encourage businesses to have confidence to invest.

“It can be privately financed. We could have an infrastructure investment bank or a bank that pulls in pension funds. And we need to create a fund that locks the politicians into spending. It will not be dependent on trade and will be insulated from the Eurozone problems,” Mr Longworth told the meeting.

He added that with interest rates so low, it would make good sense to develop some of that infrastructure now. “By infrastructure I mean road, rail, seaport, airport, energy, planning and skills.

"However, businesses can’t do this alone, and the Government has to organise, plan and get the permissions. Some projects have already been brought forward but it is not enough. Businesses have already provided us with an infrastructure list, and we will be asking again, through the Chambers of Commerce, about what businesses want."

More than 60 businesses from all six chambers attended the event for West Midlands chambers and businesses.

Mike Ashton, chairman of the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce, said: “Chambers of Commerce have already played a significant role in bringing about the local enterprise partnerships, making them business-led and private sector dominated. This joined-up thinking will provide a high-profile network for businesses in the West Midlands.

"Birmingham Airport was chosen to hold our first event as we think they have something to offer the economy of the West Midlands and we are supporting them in promoting our region.”