BUSINESSES in the east of England want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to prioritise growth in his Budget this week over introducing or extending Covid-19 support, according to a new national survey.
Some 50% of companies in the region think Rishi Sunak should focus on measures to encourage business growth. A total 24% want to see additional Covid-19 support or recovery measures (26%).
Support for digital transformation tops the business wish lists in the region, cited as the top priority for 48% of respondents. Businesses also want incentives to support low carbon business strategies (40%) and help with investment in skills attraction and development (38%) when the Chancellor makes his statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday (March 3).
This focus on growth reflects an overall uptick in optimism since the end of 2020, with 86% of businesses in the East feeling optimistic about their revenue growth prospects over the next six months – an eight percentage point increase compared to December last year.
James Brown, partner and practice leader at Grant Thornton UK LLP which carried out the survey, said: “Government support has been vital during the pandemic yet we can see that the region’s businesses are starting to look longer term, prioritising incentives and investment that support growth, with less reliance on government handouts.
“In particular, the clear call for backing digital transformation reflects the disruption to ways of working brought about by the pandemic. It is encouraging that in planning for growth, business leaders are looking to continue to innovate rather than returning to business as usual post-Covid.”
Increased optimism suggests that business leaders are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, driven by the ongoing success of the UK vaccine programme and the Bank of England’s predictions of a strong economic recovery.
“It is important that the government capitalises on this optimism as a driver for growth and backs business in the right way,” said Mr Brown.