Downtown ‘manifesto’ calls for huge Government stimulus

Frank McKenna, CEO of Liverpool-based lobby group Downtown in Business, is calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to ‘be bold’ and spend trillions to kick-start the UK economy. Tony McDonough reports

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to spend big to boost the recovery, says Frank McKenna


Leading Liverpool business lobby group Downtown in Business (DIB) has published its blueprint for the UK’s economic recovery.

DIB, a membership and lobbying organisation that also operates in Manchester, Birmingham and London, is calling on the Government to “be bold” and invest trillions of pounds to push Britain beyond the coronavirus crisis.

It has published a 28-page manifesto containing a 30-step plan, called Unlocking Enterprise & Entrepreneurship in the UK. Key suggestions for Government, include:

  • Zero VAT for the hospitality sector.
  • Tax breaks for business, including National Insurance and pension contribution holidays.
  • Tougher rules around Employment Tribunals.
  • Beefing up of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme.
  • Business-led Regional Skills Commissions to direct unspent Apprenticeship Levy cash.
  • Greater devolution and powers to Mayors and Combined Authorities.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly set to offer an emergency Budget in early July to set the UK economy on course for a post-COVID recovery. DIB chief executive Frank McKenna is calling on his to make some big announcements.

“Rishi Sunak has done outstandingly in protecting the economy, with measures like the furloughing scheme, CBILS facilities and bounce back loans. However, our economy has shrunk by an unprecedented 20%, we now need an unprecedented response.”

Click here to read the full manifesto

He added that the German government had already announced a €130bn stimulus package to kick-start it economy with measure including tax cuts, direct payments to households and spending measures spread over the next two years.

“That amounts to almost 4% of Germany’s annual GDP and we need to at least match the scale of that ambition,” said Mr McKenna. At the moment, we face an explosion in unemployment.

“We need the Government to enable the private sector to protect and where possible create jobs. Tax breaks for those who are taking on new starters would offer a positive incentive.

Frank McKenna, chief executive of Downtown in Business. Picture by Tony McDonough


“An overhaul of employment law would also be welcome. We have seen a huge increase in vexatious tribunal cases since the abolition of claimant fees and we have witnessed employer costs spiral as a result.

“It is generally agreed that young people are going to be the hardest hit, therefore we need big investment into a future jobs initiative and into skills and training. We would urge the Government to enable devolved administrations to establish private sector-led commissions that can map out programmes that fit regional employment needs.”

He also argued that more powers around economic development and business support, planning, transport and infrastructure should be given to elected mayors and combined authorities.

The manifesto insists infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail must go ahead but warned against the expansion in cycle lanes and instead urged more investment into electric vehicles.

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