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Business leaders rail against ministers' anti-business stance

The issue of executive pay is acting as a “lighting rod”, according to new study

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Business leaders increasingly feel the government is anti-business and is interfering too much in company matters with the issue of executive pay acting as a “lighting rod”, according to a new study published on Thursday.

The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), which is holding its annual conference in London on Thursday, issued its first FT/ICSA Business Bellwether survey that found one in three of the UK’s top companies think the coalition government is not business friendly.

The damning results, based on answers from FTSE-350 company secretaries, come just a day after business secretary Vince Cable published a consultation on plans to give investors a binding vote on executive pay.

Seamus Gillen, director of policy at the institute, told the Financial Times: "Businesses feel that they are constantly on the receiving end of regulation covering areas such as employment conditions, pensions and other areas of social policy. The demands may be reasonable in isolation. But cumulatively companies must factor in the costs at the same time as ministers urge them to create jobs."

The CBI business group added its voice to the growing chorus of criticism from business leaders on Thursday when it condemned the consultation for "extreme government intervention".

CBI president Roger Carr said extreme intervention can "tip the balance, converting goodwill into irritation and confrontation".

Too much government interference "changes an impression that Britain is open for business to a view that the door is closing – on talent, reward, entrepreneurial drive and ambition," Carr told a YouGov-Cambridge Symposium in London on Thursday.

"To that end, government intervention in remuneration, suggesting a 75 percent mandatory approval vote, does risk empowering minority shareholder groups, marginalising management and undermining the principles of democratic ownership. This would be a counterproductive step in good governance and business engagements," he added.

CFOs have also voiced their concerns to CFO World about what they sense as a growing anti-business sentiment in the UK.

Andrew MacFarlane, CFO of Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus last month told CFO World: “If you are an overseas company looking to invest in the UK and you just read the headlines in the British press it’s hard to say that Britain isn’t anti-business.”

Jackie Hunt, CFO of FTSE 100 insurer Standard Life, told CFO World in March that the anti-business sentiment in the UK "troubles" her.

These concerns were also echoed by Heath Drewett, group finance director of Atkins, when he told CFO World there was a "growing anti-business" sentiment.

Read also:

The Editor's blog - Anti-business! Britain? Surely not


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