Retail and hospitality bosses in East Anglia remain fearful for some in the sector following Jeremy Hunt's autumn statement - but feel he did what he had to do to pull the UK out of its deep financial hole.

The boss of a regional bakery chain predicted many businesses will fold over the next 18 months as rising costs bite - and pubs and brewing bosses warned some in their industry may have to cut workforces or hours next year.

A big bump in the minimum wage was the biggest concern - as labour is generally the sector's biggest cost.

But the general consensus is that while extra help for their sector was lacking, the chancellor struck the right balance with taxation and other measures.

They welcomed a business rates boost, including freezing the business rates multiplier for another year and increasing rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure firms from 50% to 75% for 2023 to 2024. But there were continuing calls for a more root-and-branch reform of rates.

Two Magpies boss Steve Magnall was critical of former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's ill-fated mini-budget in September, but felt that his successor's autumn statement was more rooted in reality.

"I think he's done his job - simple as that. I think he's done what he needed to do. It's better than Kwasi Kwarteng's because at least some thought has gone into it," he said. "From a realistic point of view, Hunt is doing the right thing."

But help was in short supply. Interest-free loans or grants would be useful to growing businesses like his, he said.

Last year, the business made £450k in profit. This year, he expects that to be wiped out completely. Tax rises such as lowering the higher rate tax threshold and corporation tax would have no effect on him, he said. In reality, they should be taxing the very richest - the millionaire earners - at 60%, he added, but he didn't see that happening.

However, energy and ingredient price rises combined with the firm's policy of sitting well above the minimum wage left a big financial hole for him to fill. Energy and wage rises alone will mean he has to find £200k a year for energy and £300 to £400k extra for staffing after Mr Hunt announced the minimum wage from £9.50 to £10.42 from April.

The company, which employs 201 people and operates seven cafe-bakeries and three production units across the region, wants to expand but will be hampered by higher interest rates and costs. It is in the process of moving its production operations to Walpole from Halesworth - but that involves investment which is being hit by the added financial burdens, said Mr Magnall.

"The important thing for us is maintaining the customer base. We also want to maintain our workforce," he said. But he added: "We'll bat our way through it. A lot of companies will fail in the next 18 months."

Adnams chief executive Andy Wood felt the chancellor had a "very difficult balancing act to pull off".

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"I think he struck about the right balance to be perfectly honest but I would have liked to have seen more of course for the pub sector," he said.

"I think from a beer and pubs point of view we welcome the changes to business rates but we do feel root and branch reform is needed."

A duty boost would have been welcome for an industry struggling amid eye-watering costs and would have helped stimulate demand, he added.

He pointed out that it was a key sector, employing nearly 1m people, boosting the economy by £26bn gross value added and supplying £15bn in tax.

The lowering of the threshold for the top rate was welcome, he added. "I personally think those with the broadest shoulders should share some of the load really."

Those in the industry could be making "very difficult decisions about how many staff they have next year if demand falls away". 

"The outlook is pretty challenging," he admitted. "I think consumers will go into next year feeling very uncertain and businesses are going into the New Year with rising costs, struggling not to raise prices for their consumers."

Philip Turner - who heads up the Chestnut Group which owns 16 pubs and counting across the region - shared the concern about the effect of the minimum wage hike.

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As the statement wasn't as dreadful as people thought it would be there was some sense of relief, he added. 

"The bigger concern is consumer confidence off the back of it," he said. 

He felt businesses like his, which were not over-leveraged and which was on top of its finances would survive but others would not. It would create opportunities, he said. But added: "At the same time, you don't want opportunities to be created out of other people's disaster."