Suffolk businesses have given the chancellor's Autumn Statement giveaways a lukewarm welcome - but believe a looming election was top of his mind.

Mr Hunt announced 110 "growth measures", £90bn of additional business investment and said freeports - including Freeport East - will enjoy an extra five years of support.

There were also measures to encourage companies to invest in their businesses.

But Nick Mackenzie, chief executive at Greene King, warned that the 10% rise in the National Living Wage would pile on the pressure for pub operators across the country.

Suffolk Chamber expressed "modest enthusiasm" as Jeremy Hunt offered some relief to businesses - but saved most of his largesse for the voting public.

With the minimum wage now set to soar by nearly 10% next April from £10.42 to £11.44 an hour, employers - who have been facing their own costs crisis - will need to dig deep.

Employees will also benefit form a 2% National Insurance cut to 10%. Meanwhile, employers' contribution still stands at 13.8%.

This is at a time when loans are costly and inflation - while falling significantly from 11.1% this chancellor inherited - still stands at 4.6%.

East Anglian Daily Times:

But Suffolk Chamber head of public affairs Paul Simon welcomed making "full expensing" permanent so that businesses can invest more easily, the abolition of Class 2 National Insurance contributions and the extension to the business rates discount for hospitality, retail and leisure firms.

“The supply side tweaks in planning, access to the Grid and through encouraging more people on benefits into work are also encouraging," he said.

“However, what our members really wanted to hear was more ambition in incentivising growth and risk, such as a complete review of business rates including the alternatives, more investment in our sclerotic planning system and significant upgrades in our creaking infrastructure.

“We are also worried about the reductions in growth forecasts by the OBR for 2024 onwards and so would argue that even more business tax cuts this time around were necessary to insulate firms from the choppy times ahead.

“Suffolk Chamber will now be analysing the detail behind these announcements to more clearly understand their precise impact on Suffolk’s businesses and will be producing a full report for our members.”

Peter Harrup, tax partner and head of BDO LLP in East Anglia, noted that the mood music had changed significantly over the last week, after previous warnings that tax cuts were "virtually impossible".

East Anglian Daily Times:

“For business, this has arguably been a more upbeat announcement than anticipated. 

“The “giveaways for growth”, such as extending full expensing on investments in IT, machinery and infrastructure, have responded to demand from businesses for a greater focus on creating economic certainty over the long-term.

"However, with a General Election looming, it remains to be seen whether today's announcements will be enough to create widespread confidence and incentivise business investment.   

“Beyond the headline tax changes, businesses were calling for wider support to ease their day-to-day burdens including further investment in HMRC to improve service levels and measures designed to simplify the tax system.

"Many may be disappointed that the chancellor didn’t go far enough in this regard. 

“Those businesses investing in freeports will also be buoyed by the news that the related tax breaks will be extended until 2031.”

Ipswich print business boss Ross Cracknell welcomed the chancellor's full expensing capital allowance for business growth

Ross Cracknell of Evolve Business Solutions, said it meant he could invest more easily and said the changes outlined were "great news" for businesses.

East Anglian Daily Times:

“It was particularly good to hear that the government is encouraging businesses to continually invest in infrastructure that will help them grow, including IT equipment and machinery," he said.

"By making the ‘full expensing’ business tax break permanent, for every £1 that a business invests in IT, machinery and equipment, they can claim back 25p in corporation tax.

"Companies can do this in one go as opposed to having to offset the cost against corporation tax over a longer period.

“Investing in up-to-date equipment gives businesses the best chance of increasing productivity and revenue, as well as helps to boost a company’s asset value. We were pleased to see this important benefit continue to be offered to the business sector.”

Candy Richards at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed "much-needed" action on late payments, business rates and self-employed taxation. 

“With small businesses making up the vast majority of businesses both here in East Anglia and across the UK, supporting them to grow is the right route for the Government to take," she said.

“At FSB, we have extensively campaigned for action on late payments which can often sound the death knell for small businesses with limited cash flow.

"So, it is good to see a commitment from the Chancellor to tackle this. Barring late payers from Government contracts is the right thing to do to lessen the stress so many business owners face.

“The chancellor also took much needed, decisive action on business rates, focusing on helping the smallest firms."

The extension of the 75% discount on business rates for retail, hospitality, and leisure would be "a lifeline" for our pubs, cafés, and high street shops, she said.

"And by freezing the small business multiplier, the government has prevented an inflation-linked hike for many of those in the supply chain and other sectors too.

“This step will help to make the rise in the National Living Wage more affordable. However, at FSB we will be working with the chancellor and the Treasury to take stock of what firms need before the rise comes in.

“We also saw some positive news for the UK’s four-million self-employed people. The Chancellor’s decision to reduce the rate of self-employed National Insurance, and abolish the Class II element, are extremely welcome.

"FSB has long campaigned for the abolition of the Class II element of National Insurance and the reduction of Class IV, and we are pleased that the Chancellor has listened to our concerns and taken action.”