The Next UK Prime Minister Faces A Long Wish List From CEOs

With a general election now set for July 4, PM Rishi Sunak is fighting to convince the business world they are the right person to run the country.

The Next UK Prime Minister Faces A Long Wish List From CEOs

In the 1990s, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's New Labour courted UK business in efforts that became known as the "prawn cocktail offensive" - a reference to the seafood appetizer that in times gone by was known for featuring at posh lunches.

In recent months, the current Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has revived the charm offensive, a move that has irked those on the left of the party. This time, it has been dubbed the "smoked salmon and scrambled eggs offensive," with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves enjoying a series of CEO breakfasts.

With a general election now set for July 4, the Conservative prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and Starmer are fighting to convince the business world they are the right person to run the country.

As both leaders race to put the finishing touches on their manifestos, we spoke to the bosses of seven UK companies spanning pubs and housebuilding about what they want from the country's next premier.

Steven Fine, Peel Hunt

The investment bank's chief executive officer wants the next government to push through reforms to London's equity market, which he called "the engine room for our entire economy." London has seen a number of companies quit the stock market in recent months, blaming low valuations and a lack of liquidity.

Fine said he hopes the government's Mansion House reforms - measures announced last year to boost investment in UK assets but which are now up in the air - are finalized.

"It's crucial that the next government follows through and builds on the Mansion House commitments to encourage pension capital into high-growth businesses and small and mid cap listed companies," Fine said.

He's also a champion of the UK ISA to encourage domestic investment, and supports plans to require pension funds to disclose their investment in British companies. "You can't have a strong economy without a thriving domestic market," he added.

Martin Sorrell, S4 Capital

Workers' rights reforms proposed by deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner are "the thing that worries business big time," the founder and executive chairman of advertising company S4 Capital Plc said in a telephone interview, calling them Labour's "Achilles heel."

"We need a plan," Sorrell added, noting the need to reduce uncertainty. "I think the main concern for business is whether they are going to do what they say." He also called for solutions to low productivity in the UK.

John Roberts, AO World

The founder and chief executive of the electrical goods retailer stressed the "urgent" need to reform the Apprenticeship Levy to help business and support young people in the UK.

"Reform the levy, get the right people and organizations involved in the solution - like AO, M&S, Tesco and Timpson - who know what they're doing and are standing by, ready to create opportunities to transform young people's futures," Roberts said. "Government is a brilliant funder but not an operator or innovator."

Tim Martin, J D Wetherspoon

A longtime campaigner for bars and restaurants to be taxed the same as grocers, the founder and chairman of the pub chain argues that the current rules put his industry at a disadvantage. The hospitality industry pays higher taxes for food and alcohol, meaning supermarket groups are able to cut prices of beer and wine, Martin said.

"It's a principle of taxation that it should be fair and equitable and this inequality is inequitable, so Wetherspoon is calling on the new government to create a level playing field," he said.

Graham Prothero, MJ Gleeson

Three things need to be done to help ease the shortage of new houses, according to the homebuilder's CEO. "Kick start the first-time buyer market with a targeted fiscal stimulus, help us to address the critical shortage of skilled tradespeople, and, above all, make the planning system fit-for-purpose," Prothero said.

The government set out a target to build 300,000 new homes a year in England in its 2019 manifesto but has failed to get close to the goal.

Janine Hirt, Innovate Finance

The two main political parties might not yet have published their manifestos, but the fintech body has released one of its own. It calls on the next government to prioritize tackling fraud and create a better regulatory environment for adopting new technologies in finance.

"We urge all parties to consider these ambitions and recognize the role fintech can play in supporting the next government in tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the nation, from growing the economy, tackling fraud, and driving better financial wellness for consumers across the country," Innovate Finance's chief executive said.

Tom Grogan, Wingstop UK

The co-founder of Lemon Pepper Holdings, the master franchisee of chicken shop chain Wingstop Inc. in the UK, called for property taxes on retailers to be overhauled. Hospitality and retail leaders have criticized so-called business rates, which they say are unfairly high.

"Our high streets are vital to the UK's economy, yet many traditional bricks and mortar businesses are struggling under the weight of an outdated business rates structure," he said. "This needs to be reassessed to level the playing field."

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)