The group will meet today with PM Rishi Sunak to discuss the state of the UK economy and explore options for boosting the economy

Today, the UK government has unveiled fourteen chief executives that will form a new business council set to advise the Prime Minister on economic policy.

The group comprises the CEOs of AstraZeneca, NatWest Group, BAE, SSE, Google DeepMind, Sainsbury’s, Vodafone, GSK, Aviva, Shell, Sage, Taylor Wimpey, Diageo, and Barclays.

Together, they represent many of the UK’s largest industries, including banking, pharmaceuticals, retail, construction, energy, tech, insurance, telecoms, and defence.

Unsurprisingly, these companies are also some of the UK’s most valuable; nine of the companies represented are in the UK’s top 30 listed businesses, with only the relative newcomer, AI specialist Google DeepMind, not being featured on the FTSE 100.

Combined, the fourteen companies reportedly employ around 330,000 people in the UK.

“I look forward to hearing first-hand from business leaders about how we can break down the barriers they face and unlock new opportunities for them to thrive,” said PM Rishi Sunak. “The more businesses innovate and invest, the more we grow and create good jobs across the country.”

The business council will reportedly convene twice a year and will be refreshed at the end of 2023.

Today’s meeting will reportedly focus on the economic climate, inflation, skill shortages, and the ongoing impacts of Brexit.

As far as all this relates to the telecoms sector, the inclusion of new CEO of Vodafone Group, Margherita Della Valle, is noteworthy.

Della Valle was made permanent CEO of Vodafone back in April, having held the position on an interim basis since the end of 2022. Since the resignation of previous CEO Nick Read at the end of last year, she has been outlining plans to turn around the company’s dwindling fortunes, declaring its most recent financial results “not good enough”.

The company currently has plans to cut around 11,000 jobs across Europe over the next three years, including a significant number at the company’s UK headquarters, as well as streamlining operations across its portfolio.

Perhaps most notably, the company is in the process of merging its UK operations with those of CK Hutchison’s Three UK. The £15 billion deal would create a telecoms powerhouse with the scale to threaten the hegemony of BT, potentially making Vodafone the most powerful player in the UK market.

The deal is still awaiting the results of regulatory scrutiny.

“I am pleased to be joining the Business Council, an important forum to promote and support the global competitiveness of the UK. We have a vital part to play in the UK’s future, as our national communications infrastructure can help drive innovation and economic growth,” said Della Valle.

Aside from Vodafone, the other natural fit for a telecoms representative on this council would be Philip Jansen, the CEO of BT. As head of the largest UK telco, as well as one of the country’s largest employers in the country, Jansen would seem ideally placed to help steer the PM on the UK economy’s digitalisation.

However, just last week it was announced that Jansen is seeking to step down from the role of CEO over the next year, with analysts suggesting he had been on “shaky ground” for time due to the company’s disappointing results.

Shares in BT have fallen around 45% during Jansen’s four-year tenure.

Finally, it is also worth quickly noting here the lack of representation of SMEs on this business council. There are reportedly, 5.5 million SMEs in the UK, representing 99.9% of UK private sector businesses, yet none of these

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), one of the largest lobbying groups in the country, which represents around 160,000 SMEs, has been quick to criticise the composition of the business council, calling it full of “corporate bigwigs” and “suits”.

How much of a key role does the telcoms play in growing the UK’s economy? Join the ecosystem in discussion at this year’s Connected Britain conference, the UK’s largest digital economy event

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