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East Anglian farming leader urges chancellor to do more for rural businesses

PUBLISHED: 18:09 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:09 05 December 2017

Robert Sheasby, NFU East Anglia

Robert Sheasby, NFU East Anglia

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An East Anglian farming leader has called on chancellor Philip Hammond to do more to help agricultural businesses invest in infrastructure and new technology.

Robert Sheasby, regional director for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), raised the issue during a lunch organised by Ipswich Suffolk Business Club at Kesgrave, where Mr Hammond was the keynote speaker.

During a question and answer session, Mr Sheasby said fiscal changes could help boost investment levels and productivity which would be vital if small businesses are to help the rural economy in counties like Norfolk and Suffolk to reach its full potential.

He also pointed out that only a small number of rural businesses are incorporated, meaning the majority have not benefited from changes made to corporation tax in recent years.

“Many businesses would benefit from an adjustment that took account of other business structures, in particular partnerships, that would enable greater investment in infrastructure and technology to make businesses more efficient and more productive,” he said.

“What additional evidence do you need to make fiscal changes that would see greater reinvestment and increased productivity?”

In response, Mr Hammond said partnerships and sole traders had other advantages equal to those enjoyed by incorporated businesses. However, he added that he would welcome suggestions as to how the regulatory framework could be improved for all businesses.

Mr Sheasby attended the lunch with LinksEast, an organisation set up to promote opportunities for exports and inward investment from the East of England to China.

Other guests included LinksEast chairman Clarke Willis, LinksEast director Annie Eaves, British Pig Association chief executive Marcus Bates, University of East Anglia vice chancellor David Richardson and Port of Felixstowe finance director Mark Seaman.

Mr Willis, a former chief executive of Norfolk-based buying group Anglia Farmers, said: “The opportunity for local business leaders to meet and engage with the chancellor is important.

“This gave us the opportunity to talk to Mr Hammond face to face and share the vision of the Industrial Strategy and show him that the East of England is up for the challenge.”

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