CBI to attack Labour on public services

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The Independent Online

The confederation of British Industry will call for a new focus on education and transport as it launches its business wish list for the general election today.

The confederation of British Industry will call for a new focus on education and transport as it launches its business wish list for the general election today.

Sir Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, will say that the Labour Government has so far failed to reform public services, with education and transport the two key issues where business leaders are most dissatisfied.

The employers' federation's research shows that 94 per cent of members believe transport to be the key public service for enabling business to be more competitive. But almost nine in 10 of the CBI's member firms - 89 per cent - say they are dissatisfied with Labour's reforms of public transport. The CBI will call for a Government commitment to secure £300bn of public and private funding for transport over the next 10 years.

On education, 73 per cent of CBI members say they are unhappy with school-leavers' basic literacy and numeracy skills. A third of them say that they have to give school-leavers basic training to compensate for shortcomings in the state education system.

In response, the CBI will today call for more work on literacy in secondary education. The group also wants improvements in vocational training.

Sir Digby is breaking with a CBI tradition of staying out of politics during election campaigns. He plans to take a more public profile in the run-up to the election than any previous director general of the CBI.

However, while Sir Digby's criticism of the Government will please critics who have previously warned that he is too close to Labour ministers, he will also continue to call for a more pro-European stance from the Conservative Party.

The director general said that whichever party won the election, it would not be able to deliver manifesto commitments without greater support for business.

The CBI has been angered by attacks on leading companies' profit margins, with banks in particular under fire in recent months for record trading statements. "Every party needs the wealth that business creates to fund the plans we are about to see them spell out - we need the party leaders to publicly recognise the importance of profit," Sir Digby said.

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