As the British state teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, the “only strategy” for growth is to reinvigorate enterprise, said Prime Minister David Cameron this weekend. He urged Britons to “back small firms. Boost enterprise. Be on the side of everyone in this country who wants to create jobs and wealth and opportunity.”
In a speech to his party’s spring conference, Cameron declared war on the “enemies of enterprise,” including bureaucrats who concoct “ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible for small firms,” town hall officials who take forever to make planning decisions and public-sector procurement managers “who think that the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business and who shut out millions of Britain’s small- and medium-sized companies from a massive potential market.”
The prime minister promised to open up procurement to small businesses and said that his March budget would be the “most pro-growth this country has seen for a generation.” Chancellor George Osborne told the same conference that the coalition’s spending plans would be “unashamedly pro-growth” and will include ten enterprise zones to boost some of the most desolate areas of England.
Enterprises zones were introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s. Eleven such zones were established in 1980 and a further thirteen in 1982, all in blighted neighborhoods and exempt from regular planning controls and taxes. Their effect on job growth was limited except for the London Docklands, largely derelict thirty years ago but now booming with commerce and luxury apartments.
Britain’s coalition government has already begun deregulating burdensome labor laws, making it easier for businesses to hire and fire workers. Under last year’s spending review, nearly two hundred publicly funded bodies supposed to facilitate the arts, education, the environment and health were scrapped and another 118 to be merged. These moves have been consistent with the Conservatives’ “Big Society” plans which seek to transfer authority from the government to local communities and citizens.
“Enterprise is not just about markets,” according to Cameron. “We understand that enterprise is not just an economic good; it’s a social good.”
The opposition accused the Conservatives of lacking an actual strategy for growth. Cameron and Osborne offer “empty words,” said Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, “but precious little action.”
The real enemy of enterprise, said the Labor parliamentarian, is the Conservative-Liberal government which has “cut too deep and too fast” and caused a setback in economic performance last quarter.