CBI warns against complacency despite positive poll

Eight
in 10 business leaders believe the UK remains an attractive place to invest and
that most expect to expand UK operations.

But
70 per cent say it has become worse over the past five years and 60 per cent
expect it to get worse still in the next five years.

The
findings, from a CBI and Mori poll of more than 250 captains of industry, have
been described as "deeply worrying" at the CBI’s national conference
in Birmingham.

CBI
director general Digby Jones said: "I am pleased with the better
performance of the UK economy this autumn and it is true that much of our
concern originates from Europe and a backward-looking Brussels.

"But
when top company decision-makers start giving the kind of signals contained in
our survey, the Government must sit up, listen and take action.

"There
is widespread concern about the UK’s declining competitiveness and this is
starting to feed through to investment decisions. There is no room for any
complacency by anyone, anywhere."

A
growing number of business leaders appear to be looking to overseas markets,
with 59 per cent likely to expand operations outside the UK over the next
couple of years, 43 per cent under pressure to relocate some activities abroad
and 29 per cent having already done so.

Production
is the main function moving overseas, but firms are increasingly relocating IT
support, call centres, financial operations, research and development, and
accounts. More than four-fifths of respondents said costs were the key factor
driving firms away – this was followed by regulation and labour skills.

By Quentin Reade

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