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British Chambers of Commerce boss John Longworth says Kent economy on upward trend but warns of political changes which could see David Cameron resign

By Chris Price

Kent’s economic recovery has been given the thumbs up by the boss of the British Chambers of Commerce in a largely political speech at a top conference.

Director general John Longworth spoke following the release of the group’s Quarterly Economic Survey, which reported that national economic growth slowed in the second quarter of this year but was broadly in line with predictions and strong by historical standards.

Mr Longworth said he believes the UK economy can achieve annual 3% growth and added the Garden of England is reflecting the national position, joking “there is nothing peculiar about Kent”.

The former British Chambers of Commerce director general John Longworth

He called on the Government to rebalance the economy, to invest in infrastructure and put more resources into supporting export growth as he addressed business people at the Kent B2B exhibition in the Ashford International Hotel.

His wide ranging speech talked of the increasing political landscape businesses need to be aware of, specifically the effect of the Scottish independence referendum, the impending General Election and uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with the EU.

He told the conference there is a 70% chance of Labour winning the next General Election and that a yes vote in Scotland would force David Cameron to resign.

However he told Kent Business: “If you’re a Kent business and you do no business in Scotland whatsoever, in some senses it is irrelevant.”

British Chambers of Commerce director general John Longworth is shown around the Kent B2B by Kent Invicta Chamber chief executive Jo James

Asked about the impact of Manston airport’s closure, he said the situation was “not dissimilar” around the country where areas like the South West are in need of infrastructure investment.

Ahead of the launch of the consultation on the £2bn Paramount entertainment resort in Swanscombe, Mr Longworth voiced his approval of the scheme.

He said: “Inward investment is almost always a positive.

“You have to tick the boxes. You have foreign inward investment which creates infrastructure and will attract economic activity. It will create employment, generate taxes and generate spending power and attract people to the area.

“No one can take it away because it is infrastructure and it will add to the UK economy. It has got to be a good thing..." - John Longworth on Paramount resort

“No one can take it away because it is infrastructure and it will add to the UK economy. It has got to be a good thing.

“You always have to go through the tick boxes. The only times we would question inward investment is when a company is being acquired and it is thought that it would lead to a significant lessening of economic value to the UK economy.

“We asked that question about AstraZeneca and Pfizer. If you are not adding to jobs, R&D and not adding investment, where is the upside?

“This one [Paramount] sounds like it is very positive.”

The Kent B2B exhibition is the county’s longest running business conference and networking event.

It attracted hundreds of business people, with more than 90 companies exhibiting and other speeches from marketing experts Daniel Priestley and Warren Cass.

Mr Longworth added: “It’s great. It has a real buzz about it. There was bags of netowrking going on and lots of exhibition stands. It seems to me there is a real vibrancy.”

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