The economy, housing and defence were the key targets for David Cameron in his first address to the Conservative Party Conference since his Party won a majority at the UK General Election.
Speaking to party members in Manchester, Mr Cameron said: “Nothing is written. And if we’re to be the global success story of the 21st century, we need to write millions of individual success stories. A Greater Britain – made of greater expectations. Where renters become homeowners, employees become employers, a small island becomes an even bigger economy and where extremism is defeated once and for all.”
Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor had major announcements in store which will benefit businesses across the UK over the next five years.
Chancellor George Osborne, speaking to the Conference on Monday, used his speech to reveal plans to allow local councils to retain all the business rates collected by them, as opposed to the current 50% limit.
Business rates are currently valued at around £26bn in England. Mr Osborne said the reform, due to come into effect by the end of the current Parliament in 2020, was the “biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory”.
He also announced that 89 local authority pension funds in England and Wales are to be combined into six regional funds to encourage them to invest in major infrastructure projects. In addition, there will be infrastructure investment of £5bn funded by asset sales with a massive airport expansion decision also expected by Christmas.
Chancellor George Osborne’s biggest project, the Northern Powerhouse, was also on display during his speech.
The plans to invest heavily into infrastructure in the north of England in order to create a strong area of the UK to rival that of London has been well received by businesses across the UK.
Mr Osborne said: “I’ve brought new science here, promoted the arts here, backed transport links here, brought investment from places like China here. I don’t know if it will work. But I do know that if you don’t even try you’re bound to fail. So I’m damn well going to try. Let’s go and build that Northern Powerhouse.”
On the issue of construction and building new homes, Mr Cameron launched a “national crusade to build homes” in his speech in Manchester.
He outlined the building of 200,000 new affordable homes in David Cameron’s bid to increase home ownership in the UK.
Already, he said, 600,000 homes had been built by the Conservative Party in the last 5 years, but he wants to ensure that the homes built go to those who want to buy.
“Yes, from Generation Rent to Generation Buy. Our party, the Conservative party: the party of home ownership in Britain today.”
The homes will be offered to first time buyers at 20% discount, and construction firms around the country will be pleased by the news of such a massive upcoming demand for housing.
Making the case for strong defence, Mr Cameron said that the first duty of the Prime Minister is to keep British people safe.
With this in mind, he reiterated the Conservative Party’s pledge for 2% of the UK’s GDP is to be spent on defence.
Part of this investment will involve four new Trident submarines alongside new investments in aircraft, ships and Armed Forces equipment.
Over the coming Parliament ahead of the 2020 General Election, the Conservatives can be expected to put defence front and centre of their agenda, as this is one area the new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is thought to be weak.
Attacking Corbyn outright at the Conservative Conference, Mr Cameron said: “We cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love.”
With Mr Corbyn only weeks into the job, defence investment and policy will be a key priority for the Conservatives for the duration of the next five years.
The coming years are likely to be politically and economically interesting, particularly for businesses. With reforms of business rates, infrastructure investment, tax legislation and much more already on the way, the bottom line is more opportunities for businesses like yours.
With new opportunities around the corner, you should make sure you’re in the best possible position to make the most of them.
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