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Budget: Business groups welcome Chancellor’s moves to boost investment and job

16:05 19 March 2014

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber.

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Business leaders in East Anglia today welcomed moves by George Osborne to accelerate investment in growth and jobs.

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Budget announcements by the Chancellor to cancel a planned increase in fuel duty, encourage more apprenticeships and make pensions more flexible were also greeted favourably.

Richard Tunnicliffe, eastern region director at the CBI said: “The Budget will put wind in the sails of business investment, especially for manufacturers.

“This was a make or break budget coming at a critical time in the recovery and the Chancellor has focussed his firepower on areas that have the potential to lock in growth.

“The CBI has pushed hard for this significant and much-needed energy package that will help keep manufacturing jobs in the UK, while underpinning vital investment in new energy.

“The doubling and extension of the Annual Investment Allowance, together with making the seed enterprise investment scheme permanent, will be a shot in the arm for many medium-sized businesses.

“On pensions, what’s important is that people on low incomes can make more informed decisions on defined contribution schemes. For many, that will still mean taking advice and buying an annuity, but the increased flexibility will be welcomed.

“We are pleased that the Government has chosen to consult on the implications of making a similar change to defined benefit pensions as stability for these schemes is essential.

“Changes to the ISA system reflect our call to help rebuild a savings culture,” he added.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber, said: “The doubling of lending to those firms who want to export along with the extension for apprenticeship grants, which the Chamber has been calling for, is good news and will make a difference.

“It is vital though that these supportive mechanisms are put in place without delay and get to firms on the ground as soon as possible.

“For those working in our county the cut in fuel duty and continued cut in corporation tax will also be welcomed,” added Mr Dugmore.

“These are the right decisions for business especially as we heard that growth in the economy will be 2.4% next year. Business has been the driver of economic recovery and busness growth must be at the heart of future Government policy in the next year leading up to the next General Election.”

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “Today’s announcements have been described by some commentators as a budget for business and we would generally agree with that sentiment.

“Before the Budget, chambers nationally had argued for support for apprenticeships and we were delighted that he will be continuing support for these, benefiting both businesses and our young people.

“We are pleased that the Chancellor recognised the importance of exports and has doubled the amount of lending available for export finance along with a reduction in the interest rates charged.

“The changes to air passenger duty are also welcomed and will help both tourists and exporters. We noted the announcement about encouraging new routes from regional airports with interest and hope that applies to those in Essex as well.

“The overwhelming message, though, was about encouraging growth and the changes to investment allowances and energy bills should help create new jobs and sustain businesses across Essex”.

Luke Morris, Suffolk chairman for the Institute of Directors, said: “Generally this is a responsible Budget which should promote growth, exports and investment. I suspect will be widely welcomed across the business community.

“The announcements on pensions and ISAs has the potential to bring about positive change, shifting culture from debt to savings.

“Support for Britain’s exporters is particularly welcome and, together with measures to tackle energy costs, has the potential to benefit the region’s businesses most in my view.

“The increase in the income tax personal allowance is good news but more could have been done on the 40% tax band. More workers, for whom it was never designed, continue to be dragged into it. The Chancellor has failed to raise the threshold by any meaningful amount.”

Chris Soule, Suffolk branch chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “When I was invited to No 10 with the FSB Policy Unit to discuss the needs of small businesses, I raised the issue of more advanced apprenticeships.

“The FSB is really pleased to hear the Chancellor announce today that these more advanced apprenticeships will be developed as well as increasing the number of apprenticeships and money available.

“It was also welcome news to hear that more money will be available for repairs to our roads, together with the extension of rate relief for a further three years and the scrapping of the fuel duty, which was planned for September.”

Mr Soule added: “This was always going to be a ‘steady-as-you-go’ Budget for business, designed to get the UK’s financial affairs in order. The Chancellor delivered a Budget to maintain positive momentum in the economy, while incorporating fiscal prudence.

“Today’s Budget offered a clear signal for businesses to grow through the increased investment allowance, and with a focus on manufacturing. The £7 billion package to cut manufacturing energy bills will help create jobs and strengthen this key sector.

“That said all small businesses need to be bold and brave in 2014. Following today’s fall in unemployment, we know more than half of our members have aspirations to grow with many wanting to recruit and pay more too. The Chancellor set the pace towards some progress but there is still more to be done to get the economy and public finances back on track.

“Reducing the corporation tax rate will make the UK a more attractive investment opportunity for overseas investors. And, with around 57% of FSB members wanting to grow in the next 12 months, doubling the Annual Investment Allowance for small firms to the end of 2015 will provide certainty and allow them to realise their investment expectations.

“This is something we called for as part of rebalancing the economy. Recent FSB research showed that only two per cent of members knew about the recent increase to £250,000 – meaning most firms hadn’t taken advantage of it. This change should encourage greater investment, and key for Government now is to increase communication about the allowance to encourage take-up.”

Simon Gray, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), welcomed the Chancellor’s commitment to to take forward the recommendations of Wood Report into North Sea oil and gas and said he looked forward to receiving more details on the promise to review the sector’s tax regime.

“EEEGR has long argued that gas and oil should be treated differently as both have many of the same overheads but the market value of gas is half that of oil. The region’s legacy assets require considerable investment against a backdrop of falling reserves,” said Mr Gray.

“A differentiation between oil and gas and special recognition by the Wood Review for the Southern North Sea is crucial if we are to maximise economic returns for gas production off our coast.”

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