CBI boss John Cridland seeks growth focus

John Cridland
Image caption Mr Cridland says the CBI has to "tell it how it is"

The new director general of the CBI, John Cridland, has said the government must put in place a framework that will allow business to grow.

He told the BBC that while spending cuts were "sadly" necessary, there must also be a focus on growth.

Mr Cridland took over at the business body after Richard Lambert stood down after five years in the job.

As Mr Lambert left the post last week he told the government that jobs needed to be created in the next three years.

Some economists estimate that spending cuts announced by the coalition government will lead to the loss of almost one million jobs across the public and private sectors.

'Fiscal health'

Mr Cridland said it was not an "either-or" situation, and that both cuts and growth were called for in the UK economy.

"Business needs the fiscal health of the nation sorted... but we need to do both jobs at the same time; spending reductions and a relentless focus on growth."

And he said that he believed that in the Budget on 26 March the government would unveil measures which met the CBI's aims.

"These things don't happen overnight," he added, saying he was working with government on plans to create investment, exports and jobs.

"Time is not on our side, and I think last week's growth figures proved our point."

Those figures showed the UK economy contracted by 0.5% in the three months to December.

Joined-up policies

That unexpected turn of events led opponents to urge ministers to slow down their savings programme, saying it could damage the recovery.

And organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have said confidence among members is falling, with fears the rise in the VAT rate to 20% may hit consumer spending.

The FSB has warned that growth in 2011 is likely to be "sluggish at best".

Mr Cridland told the BBC that for growth to be achieved the government needed its policies "to be joined up".

"We don't want to want to fall into the trap that sadly America has, of the the jobless recovery.

"We want a job-rich recovery."

He also called for action so that universities and colleges were providing the right training for business, and also for the cutting of regulations that were a disincentive to creating jobs.

'Toes to the fire'

The outgoing head of the CBI, Mr Lambert, had also criticised some moves by the government in relation to immigration, retirement age, and carbon reduction, measures which he said meant firms were "less like to employ people".

And Mr Cridland defended his predecessor's action.

"It is the CBI's job to keep the government's toes to the fire," he said.

"We are an independent body, funded entirely by business to speak for business - so we have to tell it how it is."

The CBI says it represents about 240,000 businesses which together employ about a third of the private sector workforce.

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