Commercial chief’s budget hopes for business

George Cowcher Chamber of commerce
George Cowcher Chamber of commerce
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A COMMERCIAL expert believes the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will be welcomed by businesses in the region.

Derbyshire chamber of commerce’s chief executive George Cowcher said there were positive announcements including investment in transport and housing infrastructure, and a collaboration between businesses and universities, the next wave of ultra-fast broadband technology and reduced vehicle running costs.

He said: “Businesses will welcome announcements about significant new temporary capital allowance increases to encourage investment by SMEs and moves to ease the flow of credit to viable firms by a dedicated business bank. However, whilst it’s only right the austerity measures must continue to bring down the deficit and keep the economy stable, this year’s Autumn Statement didn’t go far enough to promote job creation and business growth.”

Mr Gowcher wants to see schemes and initiatives delivered quickly. He feels a wholesale re-prioritisation of resources to unlock private sector finance, investment and jobs could secure recovery and underpin the future economy based on exports, manufacturing and innovation.

Mr Gowcher’s views on the budget statement regarding specific areas are outlined below:

ON CAPITAL ALLOWANCES FOR INVESTMENT

“More than £700bn is currently parked on business balance sheets, so it’s good to see that the Chancellor has listened to business and is improving incentives for investment by SMEs by raising the annual investment allowance to £250,000 for the next two years.

“These stronger incentives will encourage SMEs to dust off their investment plans and get moving. If they have the confidence to move ahead with investment, their productivity will improve, their suppliers will benefit, and the export potential of UK plc will rise.”

ON AIR PASSENGER DUTY

“It was disappointing once again to see the Chancellor did not cancel the planned 2.5% hike in Air Pssenger Duty. It’s crucial that the UK gets it right on aviation which, in the Chamber’s view, means the introduction of a system which incentivises the growth of regional airports through discounted taxation, to make it more economically attractive for airlines to consider moving out of the UK’s busiest and most congested airports and relocate to the regions instead.

“This would open up new local routes and services, help promote job creation, support inward investment and development and strengthen the regions’ international trading links.””

ON EXPORTS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

“DNCC’s Autumn Statement submission called for greater investment in trade and export support to help companies break into new markets across the globe. Exporting businesses will welcome the commitment of £70m in new funding, as long as it is used to help them strengthen their exporting capability and to exploit opportunities in fast-growing markets overseas.

“It’s good to see recognition from Government of the crucial role played by Chambers of Commerce, both here in the UK and overseas, as a unique resource for exporters, and as the first port of call for traders the world over.”

ON INFRASTRUCTURE

“Prior to the Autumn Statement, DNCC also called for massive investment in infrastructure, so today’s announcement that current spending will be cut by £5bn to invest in infrastructure is extremely welcome.

“However, this commitment is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not radical enough to unlock the resources needed to maintain and improve Britain’s business infrastructure. We also need clarity over which infrastructure schemes locally are being prioritised by Government, how much funding is being allocated to each one and a proposed timescale for their completion to ensure that businesses can plan ahead effectively.

ON HOUSING

“The measures introduced today include a commitment of £72m to build more than 4,000 new homes for affordable rent and a further £16.1m to return over 1,300 empty homes back into use, both of which are welcome.

“However, the Chancellor’s reconfirmation of £10bn in guarantees for the housing sector should have gone further and there should have been a further commitment to building 100,000 new homes nationwide, which would deliver construction jobs, business for supply chains, and local confidence.”

ON BUSINESS FINANCE

“After poor early results from the Funding for Lending scheme released earlier this week, it was good to see the Chancellor use the Autumn Statement to re-confirm his strong support for the creation of a £1bn British Business Bank.

“It was disappointing, however, that the Chancellor was unable give a clearer timetable for the bank’s creation. Britain’s business finance system is dysfunctional and restrains growth. The creation of a new, patient lender would be a game-changer for dynamic and growing companies seeking to expand here in the UK.”

ON THE HESELTINE REPORT AND LOCAL GROWTH

“Whilst the Chancellor will not publish its formal response to the Heseltine Review until the spring, he did endorse Lord Heseltine’s proposal for more local control over economic growth funding in England. The question is whether this proposed shift from central to local control will actually happen in practice, or whether it will be scuppered by Whitehall.

“Chambers of Commerce are great advocates of local solutions for local growth. DNCC has and will continue to work closely with the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and its other partner organisations to build stronger places, stronger business support, and stronger exporters.”

ON PENSIONS

“The introduction of a lower annual pension contribution limit of £40,000 is a disappointing move from a government that labels itself pro-growth.

“For aspirational entrepreneurs and businesspeople, the ability to make significant pension contributions while taking major risks is a huge incentive and enables them to make up for lean years when times are better. We fear that this move will stop many dynamic entrepreneurs from doing all they can to create growth and jobs.”

Commenting on the Autumn Statement unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne yesterday, D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Peter Richardson said: “D2N2 is ready and willing to take responsibility for driving economic growth at a local level and welcomes the announcement about devolving more powers from Whitehall to the regions.

“Whilst we await the Government’s full response to the Heseltine Review with interest, it is extremely encouraging to see that more funding will be made available to LEPs to enable them to carry out their key roles in ensuring that the regions create jobs, generate wealth and thrive.

“It was also good to see a further allocation of Regional Growth Fund cash announced, which has the potential to make a real difference to individual local companies which have the aspiration, as well as enabling the introduction and development of schemes to boost skills, support priority sectors and have a wider economic impact on the region.”