Chamber reacts to Budget

Reacting to today’s Budget, Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at East Midlands Chamber, said: “One of the big asks of British Chambers of Commerce was that the Annual Investment Allowance should be increased from £200,000 to £1m and we’re pleased that Mr Hammond has listened to us.

“Increasing the allowance will encourage investment and drive growth.

“We were also pleased to hear that he is taking steps to help businesses cope with punitive Business Rates by cutting by a third the annual cost for smaller businesses – those with valuations of up to £51,000 – over the two years between now and the next revaluation.

“Recognising there is a problem is the first step to recovery and this move recognises that the Business Rates system doesn’t work.

“The National Living Wage will again increase above inflation again next year – by 4.9% from £7.83 to £8.21. While understanding his intentions, it is businesses, not Government, that have to pay this bill and, ultimately, that means either cutting profits or passing the cost on to consumers, which drives inflation.

“The reduction in what smaller employers have to pay towards the cost of apprenticeships, from ten per cent to five per cent, should help encourage recruitment of young people. However, this remains an over-complex system and many smaller employers simply lack the resources to manage the process.“

“We are also pleased to see £675m being set aside to help council’s explore ways of revitalising their High Streets but we’d prefer to see greater encouragement of business use than moves to make conversion to residential use easier, although if that does increase footfall in High Street businesses then it should be welcomed.

“We welcome the news of greater infrastructure investment but would have liked for the Midlands Engine for Growth to have received more than just a namecheck. It is vital that here in the East Midlands we receive parity on infrastructure investment with the rest of the UK, not just the 60% per capita we receive now.

“But we agree with his decision to make an additional £420m available to fill in the potholes on our roads and we’re looking forward to further details about consultation over private sector-led Development Corporations which could be a vehicle that will help us fully realise the potential around the HS2 station hub at Toton and around East Midlands Airport.

“We would have liked to see some stronger messages sent to the EU today about keeping Britain open for business after Brexit, rather than just a suggestion of another Budget in the spring if we don’t secure a deal. And we would have liked more about how we’ll encourage private sector investment, higher employment and higher productivity but, overall, we think it was a Budget that appeared to offer a little something for everyone.”

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