Tunnel vision

Jason Ford

News Editor

As the dust settles on last week’s Comprehensive Spending review, the CBI convenes for its annual conference to discuss Britain’s business climate.

Ahead of the conference, Ipsos MORI conducted a survey for the CBI and Deloitte of 121 senior business leaders in FTSE 100 & 250 companies, plus equivalent large overseas companies operating in the UK.

The survey – The UK as a place to invest– set out to understand how attractive the UK is to investors, how it compares with other investment locations in mature and emerging markets and what matters most to key decision makers.

Positive notes from the survey indicate that 62 per cent of respondents believe that the Coalition government will improve the overall climate for business: 55 per cent believe the administration will have a fairly positive impact on business and just over one fifth say there will be no change.

Similarly, between 8 and 12 per cent of respondents across all sectors have yet to decide where their primary location will be in five years time so decisions made in government now can maintain and increase business activity in the UK.

It could be argued that last week’s CSR was weighted positively toward business, with infrastructure projects protected and the science budget frozen, plus £200m by 2014-15 to support manufacturing and business development with a focus on high-growth businesses. Click here to read more.

Indeed, David Cameron is likely to announce today that £200m is to be invested into technology and innovation centres.

Tomorrow, however, sees the publication of the UK’s preliminary figures for the third quarter of 2010 by the Office for National Statistics.

Final figures published last month revealed growth of 1.2 per cent in the second quarter of the year compared with the previous quarter. Over the weekend some economists predicted a much reduced figure of between 0.4 per cent and 0.8 per cent, prompting fears that the UK could be heading toward a double-dip recession.

Alstom is today trying to block Eurostar International’s decision to purchase 10 Eurostar e320 trains from Siemens on the grounds that Eurostar’s procurement process was flawed.

Alstom and the French government maintain that the order is invalid as the trains are designed with distributed power throughout the carriages underneath the floors and existing rules demand that power comes from cars at either end of the trains.

According to a report in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Eurostar has the conditional backing of the European Investment Bank, having approved financing for the deal on Thursday October 21.

The funding will be released if the Anglo-French Intergovernmental Commission, which runs the Channel Tunnel, rules the trains to be safe.

London’s capacity to perform as the UK’s economic power house comes under strain tomorrow as London Underground maintenance staff stage work-to-rule industrial action. The dispute is over ’safety-critical cuts’ that the RMT union says have left brakes and other equipment in a ’lethal state of disrepair’.