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Responsible, solid, focused, reassuring
Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire Chambers of Commerce, gives his assessment of yesterday’s Autumn Statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond.
“Philip Hammond has delivered a responsible, solid and focused package that will reassure both business and markets.
“Increased resources for local and regional transport infrastructure, broadband, housing and innovation will boost business confidence at a critical moment.
"The Chancellor's strong focus on the growth requirements of our cities, regions and nations will not go unnoticed in business communities across the UK.
“While business communities would have liked Philip Hammond to go even further to support growth, they will recognise that his hands are somewhat tied by lower tax receipts and sharply higher borrowing forecasts.
"The fact that he chose to commit significant new resources to support growth and productivity demonstrates welcome flexibility during a period of uncertainty and change.
“There was very little support in our business communities for further cuts to corporation tax so Philip Hammond was right to stick with existing plans. However, we would have liked to see more action on the high up-front taxes and costs of doing business in the UK, particularly business rates.
“The government's decision to move to a single annual set of tax and spending commitments will be welcomed by businesses weary of frequent and sometimes unclear changes of direction.”
“For rural businesses and those benefitting from the lower cap on annual increases following this year’s revaluation, the measures announced are welcome. However, British businesses will continue to pay the highest local property taxes in the developed world.
"Addressing this upfront burden is essential if they are to invest more in training, recruitment and growth plans – all essential to closing the ‘productivity gap’.
"Bringing forward the planned switch to CPI for up-rating from 2020 to 2017 would have helped and an opportunity to do this was missed.”
“The continued freeze is positive news for businesses, particularly amongst smaller firms and the self-employed, for whom transport and distribution costs account for a significant proportion of their cost base.”
“Businesses across the UK will be disappointed by a further rise in the Insurance Premium Tax. This is yet another stealth tax on businesses, and increases the upfront cost of a critical safety net for firms.”
“The reduction in the carbon price floor allows the UK to align our decarbonisation measures with our international competitors, so not putting the UK at a competitive disadvantage.
“Alongside this reduction, progress on further energy infrastructure projects across the UK is needed in the months ahead, given their vital importance to both local economies and national prosperity.”
“We are pleased that business calls for action on infrastructure have made an impact. It is now critical for these upgrades to begin without delay, as they are crucial not just to business confidence, but also to local and national growth prospects.
“Transport improvements have positive knock-on effects, as they open up supply chains, generate thousands of new contracts for UK businesses, as well as enhance access to labour and new markets.
“While we want to see ‘quick start’ projects delivered, we also need a long-term outlook. For that reason, business wants the government and the National Infrastructure Commission to plan for the delivery of major projects that can help prepare the economy for the future.”
“We welcome the announcement of additional finance and insurance support by UK Export Finance, which should provide valuable help to UK exporters.
"However, this is not sufficient to improve our ambition to get more businesses to export – and increased direct support such as enabling businesses to attend trade missions, trade fairs, commission market research or make themselves export ready would have been an important additional boost to companies.”
“We have been calling for years for the necessary funding to improve business broadband connections and develop 5G, so these announcements are a big step in the right direction.
"Fibre to the premises is the future - businesses need faster and more reliable broadband across the UK. We hope the 100% business rates relief for new full-fibre infrastructure will encourage better business connections, because the current reliance on old copper lines hold too many businesses back.
“The UK is still some way behind delivering access to a world-class digital infrastructure to businesses in all parts of the country. The government’s focus must now be on addressing the lack of superfast broadband to new and existing business parks.
"Rectifying this would go some way to boosting business confidence.”
“Increasing investment in research and development will provide a boost to the UK economy at a time when productivity growth remains weak.
"However, to ensure that UK firms remain competitive on the global stage it is vital that greater investment in research and development is supported by retention of our intellectual property.”
“The Chancellor has already committed investment to tackle the housing shortage in this country. Helping to meet the demand for housing is one of the ‘quick-start’ infrastructure projects we have been calling for.
"But local business confidence will only be boosted as a result when firms start to see diggers in the ground.”
“Our research shows that sharp increases in the National Living Wage will cause many firms to implement cost reduction measures, such as reducing recruitment and staff hours or increasing prices. It is important the government retains a similarly flexible approach going forward which will protect businesses and jobs.”
"It is no secret that many UK businesses are not as productive or effective as they could be, and need to do better."
On the National Infrastructure Commission study on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Growth Corridor, the Chambers’ policy executive Simon Dishman said:
“The announcement by the Chancellor accepting the NIC recommendations interim report into the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth corridor is welcomed. Addressing East-West connectivity is vital to ensuring the continued success of the region.
“Mr Hammond’s statement to the House saying the government would provide £27 million in development funding for the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway will help provide the catalyst to unlock housing development, much needed for the area if it is to realise its full potential.
"Furthermore, enhanced connectivity across the corridor will further drive inward investment, generate jobs and boost GVA and cement the regions already impressive reputation for growth.
“Finally, accelerating the delivery of East West rail links for both the Central and Western sections by bringing forward financing of over £100 million goes further the previously announced.”
Both of which were part of the Chamber’s submission of evidence to the commission earlier this year.
“It was reassuring that the Chancellor continued the government’s commitment to the Midlands Engine - where great work has already been achieved - by announcing that the British Business Bank will soon provide its first investment in this area. We also await the government’s publication of its Midlands Engine Strategy.
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