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Starmer steps up effort to woo business with planning pledges

Planning reforms and a modern industrial strategy will revive an economy which is “stuck in second gear”, Sir Keir Starmer will promise as he steps up his effort to woo business chiefs.

The Labour leader will tell the British Chambers of Commerce that builders would construct more homes, energy infrastructure and business facilities if his party wins the next election.

He will call for a “union of the willing”, bringing together companies, workers and the public “to build a better Britain”.

Labour’s focus on streamlining the planning system comes after Rishi Sunak was forced to drop plans for compulsory housebuilding targets in the face of a backlash from rebel backbench MPs and Tory activists.

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In his speech at the conference in Westminster, Sir Keir will restate a commitment to bring back local housing targets, saying: “A generation and its hopes are being blocked by those who – more often than not – enjoy the secure homes and jobs that they’re denying to others.”

He will say his policy of backing “the builders not the blockers” extends beyond just new houses.

“You can’t be serious about raising productivity, about improving the supply-side capacity of our economy and about arresting our economic decline without a plan for the wind farms, the laboratories, the warehouses and the homes this country so desperately needs,” he will say.

Sir Keir will say the county needs a government “that won’t sit on the sidelines” and will address the “doom-loop of low growth, low productivity and high taxes”.

“We need a reformed planning system, a modern industrial strategy, a more powerful British business bank that will help scale businesses – new and old,” he will say.

Against a backdrop of war in Europe and global shifts in power, Sir Keir will say: “We must square up to a new economic era where the old assumptions – on labour, on energy, on trade and goods – no longer apply.”

He will insist there are “opportunities to be seized, new markets to open up and a more prosperous future that can be won”.

Sir Keir will set out five key economic shifts: giving economic stability and certainty, handing power to communities across the country, seizing the opportunities of the future, increasing security at work and building economic resilience.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey will also address the BCC gathering.

The conference will be one of the year’s largest meetings of business chiefs and senior political figures following the cancellation of the Confederation of British Industry’s annual gathering as it seeks to repair the damage to its reputation caused by accusations of sexual misconduct and a toxic culture.

The BCC’s Shevaun Haviland will look ahead to the prospect of a general election next year by setting out the issues that matter most to firms.

She will say that only by addressing these can business confidence be regained after the pandemic, the fallout from the war in Ukraine and last year’s political chaos.

She will say: “Post-Brexit, the UK is figuring out its economic role in the world. Both exports and inward investment are facing growing competition.

“But it’s a problem we are well-placed to help solve. We know how to find opportunities and partners all over the world, and give businesses the tools to break into new markets. ”

She will bring her perspective as chair of Climate Change Committee’s business advisory group to criticise a “lack of direction” from Rishi Sunak’s government on green growth.

“We are seeing the US and the EU moving ahead, and fast becoming a far more attractive opportunity for those businesses,” she will warn.

“This is a huge economic opportunity for UK plc. New global markets for low carbon products and services are worth an estimated £1 trillion to the UK by 2030. Let’s not turn our back on that.”

She will also talk about the questions around the use of artificial intelligence: “How can we use AI to revolutionise the way we operate? What policies could help us embrace its benefits?

“And how can we safeguard against negative consequences and ensure no-one is left behind in this new digital age?”