Last month George Osborne delivered a Budget that he said, “unashamedly backs business”. From the conversations I’ve had with businesses here in York, the feeling on the ground is very much “let’s see”.
On paper, there are positive signs for some parts of the business community – a slightly higher growth forecast for the year than some might have expected, potential access to start-up business loans for young people, tax reform and simplification for businesses and corporation tax heading in a downward direction. On the flip side, a lot of business leaders feel that more could have been done to lift the red tape that currently binds them.
But what does the Government know, anyway?
This was very much the line taken by the highly entertaining and articulate Gyles Brandreth in his after dinner speech at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner recently.
In Mr Brandreth’s view – and those who were there will know that I am paraphrasing here – “Government knows nothing. The media knows nothing,” and in fact it is the people at the coalface, working hard to keep their businesses sustainable, who really know what’s going on in the economy.
He went on to say that it is the commitment, perseverance and determination to succeed evident in the Yorkshire business community (and UK-wide) that is largely to thank for any sign of economic recovery.
Now I know as well as anybody else that flattering your audience is one of the oldest tricks in the after dinner speaker’s book, but I do believe he has a point.
I see countless examples of that “Yorkshire grit” in action at a local level, with firms very much carving their own niche within – and some would say in spite of – measures taken by Government to get UK plc growing.
Is it easy? No. But, as I heard recently, “If you want easy, go and get a job. Running a business might be a lot of things; easy isn’t one of them”.
More than ever, today’s business leaders have to pull everything out of the hat, and more, in order to succeed and grow.
Successful businesses find the opportunity in every challenge and, despite having more than their fair share of challenges to deal with in recent years, I agree with Gyles: let’s never lose the good old Yorkshire grit that will help see us through.
• Jackie Mathers is Dean of the Business School at York St John University.