A report by the COVID Recovery Commission argues that the government and private sector should forge a new partnership to fuel a post-pandemic recovery.
This could include greater financial contributions from businesses to aid policy changes, including reforming the Apprenticeship Levy. The report is accompanied by an Open Letter to the Prime Minister, which is co-signed by Blenheim Chalcot’s Co-Founder and Joint Managing Partner, Manoj Badale.
The COVID Recovery Commission was formed in July 2020 and brings together some of the UK’s most prominent cross-sector business figures and entrepreneurs and policy experts. It is chaired by John Allan, chairman of Tesco, and includes top executives from AstraZeneca, Heathrow Airport, Shell, Vodafone and Blenheim Chalcot. The Commission was created with the ambition to examine the impact of the COVID crisis on the ‘levelling-up’ agenda, and to subsequently produce bold and innovative policy solutions to help reform the UK’s post-COVID economy.
The Open Letter to the Prime Minister is accompanied by the publication of the report ‘Building Back Together’ in which the Commission raises the prospect of private sector employers investing into a more effective apprenticeship scheme than the widely criticised Apprenticeship Levy. This could be through either fundamental reform of the Levy, which was introduced in 2017, or its replacement. The Commission’s suggestion is unusual because major employers have not previously signalled their willingness to increase investment in exchange for meaningful reforms.
In the open letter to Mr Johnson, the business leaders argue that “there must be a renewed relationship between the state, private enterprise and society based on the co-creation and co-delivery of initiatives”. Executives also acknowledge that building a “stronger, fairer and more resilient” economy will involve “a recognition that business’s place in the 21st century will be to serve more than just shareholders”.
The COVID Recovery Commission acknowledged in its letter that for the relationship to work, the private sector would have to “step up”. “Business already plays vital roles in our society, including as employers, investors, and advisers, creating jobs and driving economic growth,” the letter said. “However, the role of businesses can, and should, go beyond this traditional view. Firms such as those run by our Commissioners increasingly see themselves as supporting the delivery of shared societal goals in ways that go beyond their core business activity”.
As part of aiding the post-COVID recovery, the Commission said the UK would require “a much more focused industrial strategy based on an honest assessment of our existing and future strengths”. It cited fintech, which is the subject of a separate report being published on Friday by the businessman Ron Kalifa, and life sciences as two of the sectors deserving greater ministerial focus.
The letter urges ministers to deliver an energy transition which ensures “all communities benefit from the green growth opportunities, including those that have traditionally been in carbon-intensive industries.” The signatories made a commitment in the letter “to play an active role in delivering a fair and green recovery as employers, investors and advisers and through their community footprint. This is particularly true for large businesses who tend to have a greater capacity to help workers to retrain, the capital to invest in world-leading infrastructure and the expertise to help suppliers become greener and more productive”.
The Commission, which was established last year by WPI Strategy, an economic and public affairs consultancy, added that next week’s Budget should represent “the start of a national conversation about what sort of Britain we would like to see emerge from the pandemic, starting with a renewed relationship between business and government based on collaboration and co-delivery”.
There have been signs in recent months of a reinvigorated relationship between Downing Street and major business groups such as the CBI. Mr Johnson has established a council of business advisers, which met for the first time last month.
The final report is expected to be published in the spring.
Read the full article on Sky News.
Read the full Open Letter to the Prime Minister.
Read the full Building Better Together report by the COVID Recovery Commission.
Learn more about Blenheim Chalcot’s involvement in the COVID Recovery Commission.