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The industry responds to the UK’s general election

As the UK wakes up to a Conservative Party majority following a landslide victory and the worst defeat for Labour since 1935, members of the accountancy profession react to the news. Joe Pickard, editor of The Accountant, reports.

Brexit has dominated the campaign trail and has had a large impact on traditional labour seats in the north of England, otherwise known as the ‘red wall’. The repeated mantra of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party ‘to get Brexit done’ has resonated with Labour voters in the north which voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

The exit polls predicted a large Conservative majority with major Labour losses and one of the first constituencies to declare, Blythe Valley, a safe Labour seat since 1950, was a stark sign of how many red seats in the north would turn blue with the hope of confirming a Conservative majority to pull the UK out of the EU by early 2020.

Proposed Brexit deals had been voted against time and time again over the past couple of years and has led many to believe that domestic policy has been left to the wayside.

The Association of Accounting Technicians’ (AAT) head of public policy & public affairs Phil Hall said: “Whilst most commentators are concentrating on the implications of a large Conservative majority for Brexit, it’s important to note that this presents a fantastic opportunity for bold reform in a number of domestic policy areas.

“The Conservatives manifesto commitment to “review and reform” Entrepreneur’s Relief should be swiftly put into action; the repeatedly promised and long overdue reform of business rates needs to be kickstarted and much more significant action on tackling the multi-billion pound late payments problem should take place if the Conservatives are to meet their pro-business promises.”

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ (ACCA) chief executive Helen Brand commented: “A general election was called to break the deadlock in Westminster, and a government with a working majority can now progress towards resolving this impasse.

“It’s important that this deadlock is broken and ACCA urges the government and parliamentarians in general to act in the national interest in order to get back to the domestic political agenda. Namely building an economy that is inclusive, innovative and sustainable.

“Thousands of ACCA practitioners are concerned over the flow of goods and services to and from Ireland. Our latest research points to a sharp fall in economic confidence both in the United Kingdom and particularly in Ireland.

“The government must provide the vital support SMEs require to tackle late payment and unfair contract terms. It comes at a time where Brexit continues to provide such uncertainty.

“We will be writing to the Prime Minister and key cabinet members outlining what we regard as areas of fundamental importance. ACCA will continue to liaise with our stakeholders and monitoring the progression of the current Brexit deal.”

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ chief executive of management accounting Andrew Harding said: “We must take the election of the new Conservative government and its pledge to establish a right to retrain as well as its commitment to establish a £3 billion National Skills Fund as an opportunity to boost productivity and social mobility in the United Kingdom.

"This is a great challenge — and to succeed, we need to invest in both digital transformation and our talent pool. Having a well-trained, tech-savvy workforce able to leverage new emerging technologies will make or break our success. Yet a recent report by the Industrial Strategy Council estimates that 20 percent of the workforce will be significantly under-skilled for their jobs by 2030. Worryingly, our own research also revealed that 37% of UK workers don't feel that they need to learn new skills despite a growing awareness of the impact of technology on jobs."

Harding continued: "In order to address our country's skills gap and deteriorating productivity, lifelong learning, upskilling and continuous professional development need to play a significant part in the new Conservative government agenda. This is why we need to review our national education and skills policies, in particular the Apprenticeship Programme as it currently stands, to expand to provide for reskilling and lifelong learning, and continue to fund higher-level apprenticeships."

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