North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce react to the Budget 2017

Commenting on the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget, Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber, said:

“Businesses will welcome some of the Chancellor’s announcements including the ramping up of infrastructure investment in the North, extra funds to future-proof the railway network, an extension of R&D tax credits and freezing the VAT threshold in the near term.

“However, despite the inclusion of a number of announcements that will support business communities in the short term, more will still need to be done over the coming months to lay the groundwork for a successful Brexit transition. Businesses will expect greater boldness from the Chancellor – and more radical support for infrastructure and investment – once a Brexit transition period is secured and the shape of a UK-EU deal becomes clearer.”

On Business Rates, the top campaign priority for Chambers of Commerce at the Autumn Budget, Alan Welsh, Policy Manager, said:

“Businesses welcome any attempt to blunt the rise in business rates, and the switch from RPI to CPI indexation is a step in the right direction. However, this still leaves firms facing a 3% increase in April. The government could have done more to boost confidence and productivity by going further, and abandoning the uprating altogether this year, given the climate of sluggish growth and uncertainty.

“The Chamber Network has been calling for the Chancellor to bring forward the switch in indexation to CPI for many years to ease some of the burden of upfront costs, which include the Apprenticeship Levy, National Living Wage, and pensions auto-enrolment, to name but a few.

“With rates bills increasing further, UK firms will be dissuaded from investing in their plant and premises because they are penalised with even higher bills for doing so. Successive governments have tinkered with the business rates system, but fundamental change is really what’s needed.”

On planning:

“The planning system needs to work better for business, and the new review body needs to include the business voice. We stand ready to work with government on this important exercise to bring our expertise. Our research reveals that businesses are finding it harder to engage with the planning system, and are being held back by increasing costs, delays and complexity.”

On fuel duty:

“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.”

On National Living Wage:

“Most businesses already pay above the National Living Wage, but for the others the latest above-inflation increase comes at a time when they face a myriad of other upfront costs and uncertainty about investment and recruitment.

“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’s important the government retains a flexible approach going forward to protect businesses and not price people out of jobs.”

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