By Alistair Smout
LONDON (Reuters) -The British government will give more powers to its investment office to create a concierge service for large international investors in a recognition that it has become too slow and disjointed when trying to win international capital.
Finance minister Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday he would accept the recommendations of a review into foreign direct investment (FDI) after investors complained that unexpected changes to policies such as corporation tax and net zero plans were also putting them off.
Investors had called for help in navigating issues such as different incentive schemes and different government departments, and the labour shortages and planning delays that can complicate the job.
Richard Harrington, author of the review into FDI, said that other governments had evolved their approach to attracting investment and “have a much more slick, centralised, organised system for dealing with investors than we do”.
“The idea of the concierge service, beefed up, is that these investors would have an account manager who would deal with all the different aspects of government for them,” he told Reuters.
Harrington’s review found that while Britain continued to perform well on headline FDI figures, “the UK needs to do more in an increasingly competitive environment for investment.”
The review called for the Office for Investment to have more powers to deliver a proper concierge service, saying that it currently “lacked teeth” and didn’t provide a “substantive offering compared to international competitors.”
It also called for the investment minister to be given more seniority to be able to operate across government, and said government should set out a business investment strategy by spring 2024, overseen by a cross-government Investment Committee.
“I’d like to see the Investment Committee meeting by January of next year, and really get this moving. And I’ve been assured by the Chancellor (Hunt) that will be the case,” added Harrington, who sits in the upper house of parliament.
Giving an Autumn Statement budget update which is focused on measures to speed up Britain’s slow economy, Hunt said he accepted all of the review’s headline recommendations.
“In particular, we will put in place a concierge service for large international investors modelled on the best such services offered by our competitors and will increase funding for the Office for Investment to deliver it,” Hunt said.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton and Angus MacSwan)