· 2 min read · Features

The balancing act between unfettered wealth creation and fairness is a tricky one


Labour leader Ed Miliband’s Budget mantra of the “same old Tories” may have struck a note with the wider population, but chancellor George Osborne’s claim the party “unashamedly” backs business gets no truck on business forums.

"Backstabbing business" is how an irate company owner describes the 'Budget for Business' on one right-wing newspaper's forum. And while the less vituperative business groups welcome the loosening of planning restrictions, the reducing of top rate tax to 45p and the cutting of corporation tax to 22p by 2014, the general view is the UK is still not competitive enough.

While (too much) tax is one area guaranteed to get the business community hot under the collar, the other is the stranglehold that regulation has on growth. The Chartered Management Institute is "disappointed" by the lack of deregulation initiatives, while British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson says the "repeated red-tape slashing promises of the past two years have yet to meet the reality".

The balancing act between unfettered wealth creation and societal fairness, equality and cohesion will always be a tricky one and, with business failing to pull the country out of its economic doldrums, any political move that looks to benefit the toffs at the top is bound to generate fury among the masses. But business is sitting on some £650 billion of cash: it just lacks the confidence to invest.

One area of reform that would give it confidence is employment regulation. Business secretary Vince Cable is already doing away with what he calls "perverse incentives" that can dissuade responsible employers from hiring new staff for fear of tribunal claims if it doesn't work out.

I was pleased to hear Cable stress the Government would only opt for 'no fault' dismissal if there were "strong and credible" evidence to justify it. Deregulation on the basis of dogma, rather than evidence, will only serve to arrest emerging growth. Job security is vital if consumer demand is to return.

But greater simplicity and an end to misguided claims would help. HR magazine's own Crush Complexity campaign aims to put pressure on in this area and next month we unveil details of the inaugural meeting of our employment law taskforce.

One final thought. The public sector, so often the subject of ferocious business rhetoric, is acting fast to get its house in order. As incoming PPMA president Martin Rayson tells HR, HRDs are rising to the challenge. And Energy Saving Trust's transformation from quango to corporate is yet another example of the public sector just getting on with it.

Business wants a free rein, but is first to whinge when Government does not give it all it wants. Perhaps it should take a leaf out of the book of public sector HRDs for once - and just get on with it.