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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber Welcomes ‘Steady’ Budget

Chancellor George Osborne (credit Gov.uk)Reflecting on today's Budget, George Cowcher, Chief Executive of the East Midlands Chamber, said: “With a General Election within touching distance, it was important for the Chancellor to use the final Budget of this Parliament to play a steady hand, rather than making any politically-motivated announcements which risked unpicking the strong progress the economy has made over the past two years.

“The measures he announced today reflected the country’s short-term electoral horizons and long-term economic needs and its focus on growth and prosperity will have been well received by business.

“Lower business taxes, allowances for investment, and targeted support for sectors, regions and small companies all contribute to confidence, investment and job creation.

“It’s important to recognise that the business community in the East Midlands has played a central role in delivering the growth that this country has seen over the past five years.

“The region has been at the front of the pack in creating jobs, growing exports and, through innovation, developing new businesses, products and processes.

“It is this success which has created the opportunities for further investment in wages, investment and infrastructure – all areas that, if approached correctly, have the potential to heighten UK growth.

“What firms need to see now is these opportunities delivered sensibly, cognisant of what business needs, for maximum effect.

“Beyond today’s Budget, all political parties have a responsibility to ensure their plans for growth are free from hype, bombast and political point-scoring.”

Commenting on some of the individual measures announced in the Budget today, Mr Cowcher said:

Minimum Wage increase: “Staff are a business’ greatest asset and an above inflation pay increase for the lowest paid reflects the good work that business has done over the term of this Parliament.

“This is the increase recommended by the Low Pay Commission, an independent body that makes its recommendations based on a full range of information, as opposed to other niche campaign and lobby groups that have been advocating greater increases that for many smaller businesses would be unsustainable.

“There still needs to be greater focus on encouraging firms to invest in training and support for young people as they begin their careers in order to improve their skills and prepare them for fulfilling and well-paid careers.”

Increase of Minimum Apprenticeship Wage: “Many businesses have responded to the skills gap that exists between the world of work and education by taking on apprentices, creating opportunities for predominantly younger people to develop employment skills and trades which will allow them to succeed in the workplace.

“While all parties support apprenticeships, it’s vital that a true parity of esteem exists between vocational routes into employment and academic routes to ensure that young people are being properly advised on the full range of options available to them. Increased pay for apprentices is one step towards achieving this.”

Business Rates review: “This measure was announced at the Autumn Statement last December as being a full ‘root and branch’ review of what is a broken Business Rates system.

“It is good that the review is now underway, although the Treasury has qualified the work by saying it must be fiscally-neutral.

“The Chamber lobbied for this review on behalf of its members. It is vital that the system is transformed to reflect a business’ ability to pay and doesn’t penalise those – often smaller – enterprises that make a significant contribution to the communities of our town and city centres.”

Crackdown on multinational tax avoidance: “It’s important that we have a tax system that is fair, transparent and competitive.

“The current system is too complicated, which causes issues for smaller businesses while creating opportunities for large multinationals to legitimately reduce their tax liabilities.

“The past five years has failed to deliver a simplified, less burdensome tax system and it is important that the trend of over-complication is reversed over the coming Parliament.”

Annual Investment Allowances for business:

"It was good to hear the Chancellor mention the call to extend enhanced Annual Investment Allowances, but disappointing that concrete action has been delayed until the Autumn Statement.

"A stable, permanent Annual Investment Allowance would give businesses the certainty they need to make investment decisions, and help to rebalance the economy towards more sustainable growth."

Further reduction in welfare spending: “Businesses are creating jobs and it’s important that individuals – particularly those that are furthest away from the labour market – are supported into the employment opportunities that exist.”

Extension of freedoms to access pension savings: “It’s important that any extension of freedoms here is coupled with good access to financial support to make sure people are making the right choices for their own positions.”

Additional investment due to low-inflation and increase in tax receipts: “Businesses have worked hard over the past five years to grow the country out of the economic difficulties it was in.

“It is good that the fruits of this are now starting to be seen through a raft of positive economic indicators.

“Any scope these successes give to increasing support for business investment in goods and training will be important as we look to build on recent growth over the course of the next Parliament.

Further support for Northern infrastructure: “Ensuring we have road and rail connectivity fit for the 21st Century across the United Kingdom is a vital component of securing our continued success.

“Developments in the North of England are positive for the businesses and communities in those regions.

“The Midlands provides the manufacturing heartbeat of the United Kingdom. Ensuring that business supply-chains are connected across the region, and that people can readily access opportunities regardless of where they are in the Midlands, will not only give a real boost to growth across the Midlands, but will also provide a step-change in this country’s efforts to rebalance the economy sectorally and geographically.”