Suffolk business and education leaders call for 'stable' Government

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders - Credit: Archant

Business and education leaders in Suffolk have called for stability and clear-sighted leadership from the Government following the resignation of prime minister Boris Johnson. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and Paul Simon, head of public affairs and strategic communications at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, have outlined key priorities for Mr Johnson’s successor to consider. 

Addressing teachers’ pay was one of the main concerns for Mr Barton, who said the Government’s proposed pay awards were "significantly" below the rate of inflation for many teachers and leaders. 

Communication around forthcoming exam results was also important, he said, as well as addressing the staffing crisis in schools, while the Government needed to show how the target of 90% of primary school pupils meeting expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030 would be achieved. 

He added: “There are many important issues facing the education sector and the political merry-go-round of the past week has obviously not been helpful in terms of providing the clear-sighted and stable political leadership that is needed.  

“It will be several months before a new Prime Minister is appointed and this person will presumably make new ministerial appointments. So the dust is far from settled.” 

He has also said Government roles were "akin to political musical chairs", although he welcomed the new education secretary James Cleverly to the role.

Paul Simon, head of communications at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, has outlined his priorities

Paul Simon, head of communications at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, has outlined his priorities for Suffolk's business community - Credit: SUFFOLK CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

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Mr Simon wanted the new prime minister to initiate tax cuts that would enable Suffolk’s business community to weather the continuing economic storm. 

He cited the quarterly economic survey conducted by the chamber, which showed a "slow and steady" decline in business activity over the last 18 months, including weaknesses in orders and sales and a drop in expected profitability. 

In particular, he wanted the Government to "row back" on recent business tax hikes, including on National Insurance (NI) employer contributions, reduce fuel duties and VAT on fuel and avoid the proposed online sales tax, which would "ensnare" smaller digital firms. 

The "outdated and perverse" business rates system also needed reforming, he said, while chambers of commerce needed to be "placed at the centre" of local skills development. 

“Crucially, it is time that Suffolk was finally given its fair share of investment in key infrastructure, especially along our east/west corridor.  

“This means improving the quality of the A14 from Felixstowe to the Cambridgeshire border, sorting out comparatively inexpensive but enormously beneficial rail projects such as Haughley Junction and prioritising the rollout of 5G technology along this vital trade route,” Mr Simon said.