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Budget "lacked inspiration", Black Country Chamber says
6:25pm Wednesday 20th March 2013 in News
THE Chancellor could have done more to deliver for enterprise and growth, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce has said.
Chamber president, Paul Bennett, said the need to control the public sector deficit was “rightly at the top of the agenda” but said businesses would be disappointed that the urgency to stimulate employment and business development had not been acted upon.
He said: “There was very little in the Budget for small businesses or support for the High Street.
“There were no new major infrastructure projects announced and those that are in the pipeline will not commence until the next Parliament.
“In fact most of the measures in the Budget will not come into effect until 2014, which will leave businesses wondering what happens in the meantime.”
He said the Chancellor had “failed to take decisive action on some of the critical issues affecting business such as affordable access to finance for SMEs, business rates, export support and incentives to invest in skills and training.”
He described the announcement of the Employment Allowance, which will take the first £2,000 off the National Insurance contributions bill for each company, as the highlight of the Budget.
And he added: “This would mean small businesses employing four people on the minimum wage – around one third of all employers- would have no NI contribution costs at all.
“This shows the Chancellor has listened to business when it has said National Insurance is in reality a tax on jobs.
As ever, we will need to see the detail, but we must ensure the implementation costs of the scheme do not negate the benefits.”
He said the Help to Buy scheme would have a positive impact on the housing market but said he would prefer capital investment to stimulate the construction sector.
Mr Bennett said: “Land remediation continues to hold back investment and regeneration and this is of particular concern in the Black Country where projects are stalled due to lack of funding to clean up the land.
“It is all well and good helping people to access mortgages to buy their own homes, but sustainable employment is also a key ingredient.
“The construction and housing market undoubtedly requires stimulation, but the challenges for SMEs in accessing finance upon sensible terms from local relationship managers who understand their business remains particularly acute.”
He also welcomed the reduction in Corporation Tax and the Chancellor’s endorsement of Lord Heseltine’s Report on wealth creation in the regions and that there will be a single pot for enterprise funding.
But added: “We need to see timescales for implementation of a fully comprehensive system of support for business and enterprise that has Chambers of Commerce at its heart and we need to understand how much money is involved.
“We really would have liked some radical policy changes. A tax credit for businesses investing in skills and training, engaging in local schools and colleges and promoting employability skills and for businesses experienced in export to assist businesses new to export would have been very welcome.
“This was a Budget that spoke of aspiration but that lacked inspiration.”