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Chancellor’s spring statement backed by Suffolk and Essex business groups

PUBLISHED: 15:09 13 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:09 13 March 2018

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

Business leaders in Suffolk and Essex today welcomed the Chancellor’s spring statement, offering a brighter outlook for the UK economy compared with the Budget last November.

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce.
Picture: Spencer Griffith Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce. Picture: Spencer Griffith

But there were calls for Philip Hammond to resist any temptation use the improved fiscal situation for short-term political advantage and to focus instead on the long term needs of the economy.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Dugmore said the county’s business community would be “encouraged” by the UK’s improving fiscal health but added: “Any headroom the Chancellor has must be used to leave a lasting mark on the UK’s infrastructure and to attract investment.

“A far stronger push is needed to fund and fix the fundamentals here in the UK over the coming months including improvements to our digital connectivity, further road and rail improvements, and the strengthening the UK’s energy security.

“Give businesses the tools to do the job and they will create the wealth that in turn funds the social benefits we are all looking to deliver for this and future generations.”

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said businesses would also welcome the Chancellor’s “full-throated” defence of the market economy and the absence of any “tinkering” with tax rates.

“Given that businesses across the UK have long complained about constant tinkering with tax rates, the statement’s lack of tax and spending changes is welcome – and not before time,” she said.

“A clear annual cycle will mean fewer rushed policies and give firms the time they need to plan for any changes that come their way.”

Businesses would also welcome the promise of more frequent business rates revaluations, she added, although there remained a case for wider reform of the system.

“We are pleased that the Government has listened to our calls to make revaluations more frequent,” she said. “Switching to a three-year-cycle will go some way to reducing the huge changes in rates bills that clobber firms across the UK, and enable them to plan their growth strategies with greater confidence.

“However, a system that responds more frequently to changing economic conditions must also be simpler for firms to navigate.

“The current system already generates a huge number of appeals, and if it is not made easier for companies, more frequent valuations would simply make this backlog mushroom. Many members of Essex Chambers would probably say that it is time to consult businesses on reforming the whole system.”

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