We called for business-friendly measures in this Budget and largely we’ve not been disappointed.
At the very least the Government has demonstrated that it has listened to the calls of this Chamber and other business support organisations by providing us with a Budget focussed on growth.
We regret that the Office for Budgetary Responsibility’s growth prediction has been revised downwards placing more pressure on the Government to produce results for the economy and for business.
Whilst we also regret that inflation is running higher than the Government’s forecast we would caution the MPC against an increase in interest rates.
Overall, we welcome the Chancellor’s four Budget aims for business, which are to:
1. Create a competitive tax system
2. Make Britain the best place to start up and grow a business
3. Pursue a more balanced and greener economy
4. Develop a highly educated and flexible workforce
On the tax system
Naturally, we welcome the reduction in Corporation Tax by 2% and fully support the aim of giving Britain the most competitive tax regime of the G7 countries over the next three years.
We also welcome the consultation on the merger of NI and income tax because it will simplify the tax system in the medium to long term. We recognise this will require care in order to protect the interest of savers.
However, the Chamber is disappointed that the Chancellor failed to cancel the remainder of the planned employer national insurance contribution increases.
On fuel duty
The Budget went beyond what the Chamber called for by replacing the fuel escalator with a fuel stabiliser and delayed any increase in duty until next year. We welcome the immediate cut to duty by 1p and the freeze on excise duty for HGVs – all of which will be welcomed by Chamber exporters and freight forwarders.
We are encouraged by the attempt to simplify the tax system with £350m’s worth of regulation to go and one hundred pages of red tape to be scrapped.
The Chamber welcomes the moratorium on new regulation for micro businesses and new start-ups for the next three years but we believe these are still only modest steps in the right direction.
We welcome the attempts to ensure that growth and jobs will take priority in future local planning decisions – a measure that should encourage investment in enterprise.
The Chamber is pleased with attempts to increase the availability of finance through the Enterprise Investment Scheme and we are keen to hear more about the Start-Up Britain Initiative.
We are also encouraged to see that the Chancellor has extended the business rates' relief for small businesses for a further twelve months and that Entrepreneur's Relief will double to £10m.
On rebalancing the economy
The Chamber welcomes plans to improve our region’s connectivity with Liverpool opening up new opportunities with businesses across the Pennines. This answers our calls to improve infrastructure through additional investment and rebalance the economy across the north/south divide.
We are pleased that there will be even more enterprise zones in due course and that they will be targeted on areas where manufacturing and export are key.
We also welcome plans for an enterprise zone in Leeds although we are concerned that economic priorities will increasingly centre on Leeds to the detriment of other parts of the City Region, particularly Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.
On the green agenda
We are encouraged to hear about the Green Investment Bank and the additional funds allocated which will enable it to become effective a year earlier.
There was positive news on life sciences and renewables, and the Chancellor’s support for carbon capture is good news for our region.
On the workforce
The Chamber is pleased with the greater emphasis on vocational training by doubling the number of university technical colleges making 24 in all. Although we are slightly disappointed with the lack of any new thinking on education and skills, the vast number of apprenticeships and high level apprenticeships committed over the next four years is good news.
Overall we are really happy with the emphasis on manufacturing, export and green business measures and that includes tax relief for science and R&D.