New SME group to tackle UK productivity gap

In a meeting with Mark Carney, governor at the Bank of England, the new group set out its commitments to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) improve their productivity.

The group is chaired by Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. It includes several business leaders such as James Steward, KPMG’s vice chair and head of Brexit, Steve Varley, EY’s chairman, and Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, as well as representatives from Amazon, Accenture, BAE Systems, GSK, Rolls-Royce, McKinsey & Co, BT Group, Nestle, the British Museum, Siemens and Cisco.

Its commitments include providing advice via a national digital platform –launched today –and an SME’s mentoring programme which will be introduced nationwide later this year.

The group has also committed 100 mentors to the Productivity through People education programme being launched nationwide next year, and will report on the programme roll-out at its next advisory board meeting, which will be hosted by chancellor Philip Hammond in September.

The 12-month regional programme was initially launched in Lancaster, Bath and Glasgow by BAE Systems and the University of Lancaster last year.

Carney said, “UK productivity has severely under-performed since the financial crisis, resulting in a lost decade for real incomes and a lower speed limit for the economy. Reviving productivity growth is critical for the UK’s long-term economic prosperity, and part of the answer lies in spreading best practice across a much wider range of firms.

“Be the Business are playing a key role in achieving that, helping businesses to identify and implement ways to improve their productivity.”

Sir Mayfield added that, “Getting our businesses to improve their performance to the same level as our international competitors is the biggest economic challenge we face as a country. The UK’s businesses have the solution in their grasp. That’s why we’re building a movement that will recruit tens-of-thousands of companies across the UK to ensure we’re match fit to compete post-Brexit.”

UK labour productivity grew by 0.9% in the third quarter of last year. However, the group pointed out that this follows a decade of under-performance and that Britain remains 25% less productive than Germany.

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