CBI to close swathe of overseas offices in cost-cutting drive

Business

The CBI, the embattled business lobbying group, is to close a swathe of its overseas offices as part of a cost-cutting drive aimed at ensuring its survival.

Sky News has learnt the CBI has informed staff it is to axe its operations in Beijing, Delhi and Washington DC in the coming months.

The move will leave an outpost in Brussels as the only international presence of the organisation.

One source said the closure of the three offices would affect “fewer than 10” jobs, but it is nevertheless expected to be seen as symbolic of the retrenchment of what was for decades Britain’s dominant business representative organisation.

A CBI spokesperson said on Friday: “We have had to take the difficult decision to reduce our number of overseas offices as the CBI shifts to a smaller, leaner operation.

“The CBI will however continue to provide a valuable international service to members, including maintaining an international presence.

“We shall continue our role as the UK business representative on BusinessEurope, the B7 and B20 as well as BIAC (Business at the OECD).”

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News of the CBI’s plans comes more than two months after a majority of voting members backed a blueprint for reform in the wake of a sexual misconduct scandal which put paid to the career of Tony Danker, its former director-general.

The group, which is seeking a new president to replace Brian McBride, is cutting jobs across its operations amid growing financial pressures.

It has already embarked on a compulsory redundancy programme, sources told Sky News last month, with roughly a third of the workforce said to be vulnerable.

The CBI was hit by a wave of membership resignations – including Aviva, John Lewis Partnership and NatWest Group – earlier this year when it emerged that it was facing multiple allegations by women who were previously employed there.

Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, said there was “no point” interacting with it after it was deserted in droves by leading corporate members.

The claims included a rape allegation unrelated to Mr Danker.

In recent weeks, the CBI has made efforts to begin restoring relations with the government and Labour after both said they would suspend senior-level contact with the group.

The Sunday Times reported this month that the CBI’s centrepiece event, its annual conference, would not be held this year.

Read more:
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New business group launched to rival CBI

The CBI has claimed in the past to represent 190,000 businesses – although most of these are not direct members.

It was incorporated by royal charter in 1965.

Many of the large companies which suspended their membership pending the conclusion of a police investigation will face a decision in the coming months about whether to resume their engagement.

Had the CBI board lost the vote in June, it would have filed for insolvency.

Rain Newton-Smith, the new director-general, hinted after she took over that the group would change its name, although it is unclear whether that remains on the cards.

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