Chambers urge government to ‘pull out all the stops’ for business in Autumn Statement

Oct 25, 2016

The call comes ahead of the Autumn Statement on November 23. Pre-existing concerns over a slowing economy have been intensified by the political and economic uncertainty that followed the electorate’s historic vote to leave the European Union.

Locally, Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce’s recent Quarterly Economic Survey showed an that businesses were having to increase prices as a result of an increase in other overheads such as energy costs.

Furthermore, exchange rates as a result of the EU Referendum are also causing concern for businesses.

However there was a divergence in performance with manufacturing firms outperforming their counterparts in the services sector.

Export orders for firms operating across both sectors have either flat lined or declined over recent quarters.  

In Northamptonshire, the QES showed a decline in UK sales activity across both the manufacturing and services sectors, with orders – an indication of future demand – also showing a decrease.

Exchange rates as a result of the EU Referendum are also causing concern for businesses. Both business rates and interest rates were also external factors of concern for firms across the county.

Nationally, the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey showed that businesses have lowered their expectations for hiring, turnover, and investment in plant, machinery, and training in the coming year.

The BCC believes that the Autumn Statement can create the foundations for the UK to successfully navigate the coming transition period, and remain a great place to do business for firms of all sizes.

 The BCC submission on behalf of the Accredited Chamber network, of which Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire Chambers are part, was handed to the Chancellor at 11 Downing Street in September. It proposes seven key measures:
  • A pledge to introduce no new input taxes or other significant costs on businesses for the remainder of this Parliament,      matching the pledge made to voters on income tax, NICs and VAT during the 2015 General Election campaign;
  • Further fundamental reform of business rates – exclusion of plant and machinery from valuations; and bringing forward the switch of the annual uprating from RPI to CPI to 2017, from 2020;
  • Temporary widening of the Annual Investment Allowance to include business premises improvements for a period of five years, alongside investments in plant and machinery;
  • Improving the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy – levy-paying businesses should be able to support high-quality workplace and vocational training, in addition to apprenticeships;
  • Direct investment in ‘quick-start’ infrastructure projects such as housing and broadband. The Chancellor has already responded in part to this with a new housebuilding programme;
  • Increased resources to directly support SME export plans – direct monetary support for firms to explore new markets or deepen sales abroad;
  • Creation of an indirect tax road map – to give businesses much needed clarity to invest with confidence.

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of the Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire Chamnbers, said: “The Autumn Statement gives the government a great chance to set the tone for its relationship with British business, by pulling out all the stops to support investment, infrastructure improvements, and business confidence.

“The Chancellor made the right move when he signaled his willingness to use historically-low interest rates to invest prudently to support growth, and he has a golden opportunity now to use this fiscal flexibility to ‘crowd in’ business investment.

“Plans to lower business costs and support investment would help firms take risks and seize opportunities in spite of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process. Westminster must do everything in its gift to improve the business environment – and firms will repay that backing with investment, hiring, training and export growth.” 

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