The Mid Yorkshire Chamber responds to the Autumn Statement made by the Chancellor on Tuesday.
The Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce welcomes the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement which has provided a credible plan, addressing many of the concerns of our membership.
The Office for Budgetary Responsibility’s bleak growth forecasts for 2011 and 2012, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the beginning of his Autumn Statement, clearly articulated the need for decisive government action to support growth in the economy. The OBR predicted an anaemic 0.9% level of growth this year and 0.7% growth next year. This represented a reduction in their official forecast by 0.8% for 2011, a move which the organisation attributed to external inflationary shocks and the Eurozone debt crises. Given this prediction of a flatlining economy, there is a clear necessity for Government to introduce business friendly policies in order to stimulate growth.
The Mid Yorkshire Chamber therefore welcomes measures announced by the Chancellor today to direct £30bn in spending to key infrastructure projects across the country. We are particularly pleased to see Government support for the electrification of the Transpennine route from Leeds –through Huddersfield- to Manchester, and a commitment to allocate spending to further regional infrastructure projects, including ‘super fast’ broadband. This will not only provide a much-needed boon to local business, which relies upon infrastructure links which have in many cases failed to meet local needs, but also to the construction industry and the local job market. The Chamber have been particularly determined on the necessity for improvements to the Caldervale line, and we hope that the electrification project may provide a basis for further rail development.
We also welcome attempts to improve the regulatory environment for business, cutting down on health and safety red-tape which is an unhelpful burden particularly for small businesses. Changes to job laws which will give employers greater staff flexibility and will introduce fees associated with employment tribunals will help to reduce the costly burden of employment regulation. It remains difficult for businesses to access the necessary financial resources to support growth, so credit-easing measures announced by the Government will provide a much-needed ‘shot in the arm’ for Britain’s economy. It is essential that Government ensure that this £20bn package is effectively delivered, and that banks fulfil their promise to increase lending. Viable companies must be made aware of, and encouraged to take up, these credit lines, as well as existing schemes such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee.
An extension of the current holiday on business rates for another year and the introduction of a new deferral scheme, which will allow businesses to postpone payment of up to 60% of their rates for up to two years, are particularly helpful measures. However, there remain concerns over the scheduled inflation-linked increase in business rates of 5.6% due to take effect in April 2012.
The Chancellor has presented a credible plan which addresses many of the concerns felt by businesses in this region and has provided concrete measures in a number of key areas that will make a real difference for UK business. The underlying figures presented by the OBR are concerning but it is reassuring to see a commitment to British industry at the heart of the Autumn Statement.