Politicians can’t push up wages – only business can fix it, John Lewis boss tells Liverpool audience

Addressing hundreds of guests at the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce annual dinner at the Titanic Hotel, Sir Charlie Mayfield said the key to raising incomes was increasing productivity. Tony McDonough reports

John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield addresses the Liverpool Chamber annual dinner


Only businesses, not politicians, can reverse a decade of declining wage growth and living standards, the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership has told an audience in Liverpool.

Speaking at the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce annual dinner at the Titanic Hotel, Sir Charlie Mayfield said the key to raising incomes was increasing productivity.

Engels pause

Sir Charlie referenced the ‘Engels Pause’, a period identified by philosopher Friedrich Engels during the first few decades of the Industrial Revolution when living standards declined significantly.

Living standards eventually did rise as the fruits of the Industrial Revolution came to be shared more equitably.

They started to fall again following the financial crash of 2008/09 and Sir Charlie said there was a fear we had entered another pause.

Productivity is key

He told the hundreds of guests at the event on Thursday evening: “We cannot afford to have another pause. But we cannot afford to leave it to ‘them’ (the politicians) to fix.

“But if thousands of businesses can just improve their productivity by a little bit – just by an inch – we can unlock and extra £100bn. It is increased productivity that will drive wage growth.

“Politicians are keen to help but we cannot leave it to them – it is only business that can make a difference over a period of time.”

‘Big ambitions’

Sir Charlie is chair of the Productivity Leadership Group and is involved in a campaign to encourage business group called Be The Business, which he describes as a “small charity with big ambitions”.

He also praised a Liverpool city region initiative called LCR 4.0, which aims to open the benefits of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ – the rapid developments in digital technology – to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Mersey firms are tapping into the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Sir Charlie added: “Business has a huge opportunity to really lift the economy. People are depending on us to raise their wages. This is too important and we can’t leave someone else to do it.”

‘Best of business’

The event was also addressed by Liverpool Chamber’s recently appointed chief executive Paul Cherpeau, who said: “The chamber has promoted and supported the best of business for more than 165 years and remains committed to its purpose to promote and enable our region to be the best place to start or locate a business in the UK.”

A number of awards were also handed out during the evening:

  • Homeless charity Emmaus Liverpool won the Environmental Impact Award, sponsored by SP Energy Networks.
  • The Empowering People Award, sponsored by Liverpool John Lennon Airport, was won by the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals.
  • Peel Land & Property scooped the Responsible Business Award (large businesses), sponsored by BT Local Business.
  • BT Local Business also sponsored the Responsible Business Award (SMEs) which was won by Homecarers Liverpool.
  • And the Local Hero Award, award by the chamber, was won by he Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals.

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