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Growth and jobs must remain an 'absolute priority' for the UK, says REC ahead of the Autumn Statement

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Ahead of the Autumn Statement next week the coalition Government must provide more access to funding for SMEs if the UK is going to see a significant boost in growth and jobs, states a report published today by The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

The report, Creating opportunities and jobs, will be put forward to the Government today looking at the delivery of their targets to create growth and jobs.

It states that these must remain an absolute priority for the UK. And while the coalition has so far been well intentioned, it now needs a 'step-change' in its delivery.

REC is urging the Government to do more to help SMEs that are struggling to access funding as this is creating a barrier for growth. It also states delivering progress and holding to account must remain a priority for Government and programmes such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme must not only be available, but easy for companies to access.

The report highlights the lack of skilled staff in key sectors as a major barrier to economic growth, these include areas such as engineering, technology and oil and gas.

The report states that as well as building the skills pipeline through an effective careers guidance network, immediate actions must include encouraging employers to offer apprenticeships, developing a 'fast track' training-system for growth sectors and ensuring immigration policy reflects labour market needs.

Kevin Green, chief executive of REC, said: "The priority now is to look ahead and to agree on measures for accelerating the recovery. One extremely positive development has been increasing recognition from all political parties for the role that trade associations and professional bodies can play in developing employment policy.

Green added: "It is in this spirit of co-operation that we put forward a number of practical recommendations for creating the right economic environment, removing barriers to growth and for promoting opportunities and jobs for people across the UK."

John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has today written a letter to chancellor George Osborne outlining key priorities he must focus on in his Autumn statement next month.

Cridland has called on the chancellor to 'stick to the course' on deficit reduction, but do more to drive growth.

He also said that the Government should get the business bank up and running as soon as possible, and warned against a reduction in pension tax relief.

Cridland said: "The CBI fully supports the Government's deficit reduction plan. This is critical for the UK to keep the confidence of international markets.

"However, the Government does have additional resources available - it underspent by £7.8 billion last year and will receive a windfall of up to £4 billion from the 4G spectrum auction next year.

"We believe that around £1.5bn of this resource should be targeted on short-term, high-impact measures to support growth. These include: local government spending on road maintenance, incentivising take-up of the Green Deal, capping business rates at 2% in 2013, a new capital allowance incentive for infrastructure investment, and scrapping stamp duty on AIM shares to encourage investment in medium-sized businesses," Cridland added.

Responding to suggestions that the Government may reduce pension tax relief, Cridland, said: "Lowering the threshold below £50,000 is not a wealth tax - it's an income tax which would hit swathes of middle-income earners.

"This would hit small business owners who invested heavily in their companies in the early years so back-load pension contributions to the end of their working lives, particularly hard. It would also be a major blow to professionals saving in defined benefit schemes - like senior nurses, retail store managers or gas engineers, who get a pay rise or a promotion.

Cridland added: "Reducing the tax free limit would fly in the face of the Government's efforts to encourage more people to save adequately for their retirement, and its drive to position the UK as a world-leading business investment location."