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Chambers welcome Budget investment but warn: ‘The devil will be in the detail’

BUSINESS leaders in Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire have welcomed the announcements in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget.

The budget was given a cautious welcome as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced he was using the statement to invest in future growth and to support firms still suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

That included a 50% discount on business rates for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, a freeze on fuel duty, £3.8 billion investment in skills and further support for research and development.

Rishi Sunak

Sean Rose, policy executive of the Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes Chambers of Commerce, said: “It was a very upbeat budget delivery considering the 18 months businesses and individuals have faced.

“The devil is always in the detail with the budget statement because there are always lots of big numbers mentioned and it takes some time to understand exactly what it means for firms and the region.”

Businesses hit hardest by Covid will welcome the 50% discount on business rates and the business rates improvement relief will incentivise businesses to make improvements to properties, Mr Rose added.

“There was also positive news around the fuel duty rise being cancelled which is a boost for business and the self-employed at a time when costs are rising,” he said. “We support the principle of increasing the living wage and understand the need to increase the incomes of our lowest paid. However, business costs are rising across the board and will contribute further to rising inflation.  

“On the whole, businesses will wait to see what details emerge as they look to recover from the most difficult period any of us have faced.”

Giving her reaction to the Chancellor’s budget, Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “There is much to welcome in this Budget for business communities across the UK.

“The Chancellor has listened to Chambers’ long-standing calls for changes to the business rates system and this will be good news for many firms. This will provide much-needed relief for businesses across the country, giving many firms renewed confidence to invest and grow.”

These changes must be the start rather than the end point of the reforms to this “broken system”, she added.

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce

“Additional investment in skills, infrastructure and better access to finance will be key drivers for our economic recovery and will provide longer-term benefits and opportunities for businesses across the country.

Businesses have been “battered” by 18 months of the pandemic and problems around supply chain costs and disruption, labour shortages, price rises, soaring energy bills and taxes. Employers face difficult months ahead, Ms Haviland warned.

“While the investments announced will take time to bed in, government should consider other action that will relieve immediate pressures, particularly on smaller businesses, such as urgent review of the shortage occupation list to allow for short-term visas in key sector and a SME energy price cap.

“If firms face unexpected bumps in the road, the Chancellor must be prepared to take further action to get the economy firing on all cylinders again.”

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