This year’s Conservative Party Conference was never going to be filled with heavy policy announcements. The timings of the Brexit negotiations, as well as the cautionary approach of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor meant that delegates knew not to expect fireworks.
However, this doesn’t mean there wasn’t a couple of good nuggets in there. Philip Hammond proudly declared that the Conservative’s were the “Party of business”. When comparing themselves to the Labour Party this is not a hard position to claim. Backing this up he announced two “new” policies. One was a loosening of the Apprenticeship Levy to allow business to invest funds into their supply chains, and the second being reforms to help productivity of SMEs.
The City Minister, John Glen, backed up his boss, and in fringe events on the support the banking sector should bring to the table, he spoke passionately about the need for greater mentoring of SMEs by big business to help drive management skills.
The pensions minister, Guy Opperman, reaffirmed his commitment to the pensions dashboard, but did stop short of forcing the industry to develop it using legislation, or putting a date on when the dashboard would go live.
Across all the financial services Minister it was Liz Truss who arguably had the best Conference. Chief Secretary to the Treasury used her multiple appearances during the week, which included a main stage speech (an unusual slot for someone in her position), to reiterate her commitments to small government and cutting regulation, support for business, and tight fiscal control. She was also quick to humanise the Treasury team and echoed the message of approachability to those in the sector who want to engage on positive economic development debates.
Attention will now quickly shift to the Chancellor’s Budget on 29 October, and which parts of the sector, and which initiatives, will continue to have government support, or has bad news been saved in order to let Government escape Birmingham without too much scrutiny?