CBI chief warns over 'too hasty' wage rises

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The Independent Online

John Cridland, the director-general of employers' body the CBI, has warned against hiking wages too soon before Britain's economic recovery has taken strong root. At the same time as intervening in the cost of living debate that will loom large during the 18-month run-in to the next General Election, Mr Cridland cautioned against what he sees as rising political threats to business growth.

He said that Ed Miliband's party conference speech – in which the Labour leader threatened to freeze energy bills and seize private land that was not being built on – "changed the dial" for business and could drive a wedge between large firms and small enterprise.

Mr Cridland said many of his members now believe "politicians will be focused on shorter-term opportunism rather than longer-term strategy," as elections heave into view.

He added: "Politicians talk about raising wages, but that is very dangerous until growth is embedded. Higher wages come from more successful businesses. So let's get the growth first. The job of business is to provide opportunity and skills."

The CBI will debate the issue of trust at its annual conference in London on Monday. Mr Cridland backs a Competition Commission review of the energy sector, whose firms have been in the line of fire for above-inflation price rises.

"I take the view that when competition has been looked at in energy markets in recent years, they have not been found wanting – but I think it is perfectly appropriate to ask the question," he said. Greater transparency is the key for the business world to regain the public's trust, he added.

Mr Cridland believes the Government should do a better job of selling the merits of the troubled HS2 link between London and Birmingham as part of a package of major infrastructure schemes. But he is supportive of the Help to Buy initiative that is aiding housing market recovery.

Looking ahead to the Autumn Statement on 4 December, Mr Cridland is calling for the business rates rise to be capped at 2 per cent next year.