As people lie in ambulances waiting for treatment, the sound of squabbling politicians rings in their ears.


If it’s not the NHS, it’s the economy. We got four or five rebuttal and counter rebuttal documents from the Conservatives and Labour on Monday about each other’s spending plans.


The electorate is already mightily disillusioned with the Westminster game. Four months of this will not just have them turning off in droves, it will make them angry.


Political reporters have already been overusing the phrase “the election campaign got under way today”, when we know that there will be multiple launches around the spring party conferences and when Parliament is dissolved. Oh for the return of the short sharp campaign. There is a view that people generally form a view two years out from an election. It is difficult to achieve significant changes in opinion amid the sound and fury of the last few weeks before polling day. To inflict this early period of claim and counter claim on a weary electorate is a mistake.



For business, the approaching election means the thing it hates most, uncertainty. The possibility of a change of government might mean that investment plans will be put on hold. This is compounded by the prospect that forming a new government might take weeks and involve multiple parties. Discerning what that will all mean for taxation and business incentives is very difficult, hence the Prime Minister comes up with his plea for continuity under the Conservatives.


But away from politics there are a number of other business related questions for the year ahead. How much longer are the workers going to settle for 1% pay rises and zero hours contracts? With unemployment dropping and the economy improving, are we going to see more robust demands for pay rises? These may particularly come in the private sector where there is some evidence of skills gaps developing. Public sector workers may be less likely to take part in a wage push because remorseless cuts are set to continue whoever is in power.




Uncertainty at home and uncertainty abroad. The slump in the oil price in 2014 took everyone by surprise. Whilst it provides everyone with lower costs in the short term, what it is telling us about the health of the world economy is another matter.


The American economy is surging ahead but the Euro zone’s performance continues to be an embarrassment for those of us who want it to succeed.

The Russian economy is tanking because of the oil price and sanctions, but how will Vladimir Putin react? Will he bow to the pressure or stoke up the fear that Mother Russia is under attack from the West.


A few years ago China’s rapid expansion sent raw material prices soaring. Growth has slowed. What effect will that have on China’s policy of increasingly investing in western infrastructure? Questions are being asked for instance about progress with the development of Wirral and Liverpool Waters.




As we mark the 800th anniversary of this shake up in English governance, it would be nice if we could take a fundamental look at how we are ruled from parish council to the House of Lords.


It doesn’t look as if that is going to happen. Instead we will have to concentrate on incremental change. In that respect the question for this year will be whether Leeds, Sheffield and even Liverpool will be getting the Greater Manchester devolution deal, with or without elected City Region mayors.


It’s not often that the Queen drops in on a business conference in Burnley. But a visit from the Windsors was what delegates to the Small Firms’ Summit experienced this week.

Debate on the burdens of red tape and lack of skilled workers was temporarily suspended as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh met selected guests.

The visit may have contributed to the upbeat mood of small firm managers as they met at Burnley College on the impressive University of Central Lancashire site in the town.

Also helping put a smile on delegates’ faces was the opening speech by Stephen Falder, a Cheshire businessman who invented the highly effective anti microbial product Byotrol which he exports around the world.

Stephen is an avid Manchester City fan and his voice was still a bit croaky as he enthused about the advantages that small and family run businesses can have over the big boys.

“You need passion and fun” Stephen declared and told us how he’d named a product for keeping barnacles off the keels of boats “Slippery Bottom.” It rushed off the shelves.

He set off a lively debate by saying claims that regulation was strangling small businesses were overdone. He’d been to Europe and said regulators in Brussels and elsewhere were prepared to listen if you didn’t rant and explained the problem convincingly.

Byotrol had been through the hard times in 2008. Everyone-managers and workforce-had gone on to a four day week and were in a good position to spring back.

The conference then debated a number of issues affecting small firms including the quality of young people emerging from schools and higher education.

There seemed to be agreement that some youngsters were under the impression that a degree would guarantee them a place half way up the management tree when in fact they needed to be prepared to start at the bottom.

There was a call for teachers and university lecturers to get business experience on the shop floor and for youngsters to be given every encouragement to start enterprises when they were in their late teens.

Firms were encouraged to make work experience meaningful and the conference ended with calls to the government to take action on business rates and the growing number of extra charges firms were being asked to pay for a range of services.


Meanwhile over at the Liverpool Economic Forum calls were once again heard for all agencies in the City Region to work together.

The new mayor Joe Anderson was billed to be there but was already strutting the world stage at an event in Paris. This was one of the ideas around the creation of the post that seems to have got off to a quick start.

If Joe had swapped Old Hall Street for the Champs Elysees he would have heard an old cry for agencies supporting business in the Liverpool City Region to work together.

The panel including Wayne Locke (Space Northwest), Neil Murray (Redx Pharma) and John Schorah (Weightmans) clearly had concerns about whether the new Local Enterprise Partnership, Liverpool Vision and the councils on Merseyside were all pulling in the same direction.
This may be a task that Joe Anderson can undertake, but he is only mayor of Liverpool, an early sign of the folly of not making this a city region post.