Business anger over regionalised policy

BUSINESS leaders in Suffolk and Essex yesterday welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget measures to encourage enterprise ? but bitterly condemned the East of England’s exclusion from a key concession on National Insurance.

New businesses in most parts of the UK will benefit from an NI “holiday”, in a bid to boost jobs, but it will not apply in the London, South East and East regions.

Chris Barnard, chairman of the Ipswich & Suffolk Small Business Association, described the decisionas “alarming”, adding: “These are the very areas where costs, in terms of wages, property and premises, are higher.”

David Burch, East of England policy manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the decision was “penalising successful regions like the East of England”.

And Paul Winter, Suffolk branch chairman of the Institute of Directors, added: “This is totally unfair and reflects a rose-tinted view by Whitehall of the whole region and ignores the many areas of high unemployment and under-development we have in the region.”

However, Mr Winter said the reductions in Corporation Tax and the extension of entrepreneurs’ allowances were welcome ? although these could be nullified for some by the changes in capital allowance ? as were the support for tourism-related business and for a private sector solution to the problem of rural broadband.

Celia Hodson, chief executive of Choose Suffolk, said: “If the Government is committed to its aim of creating a sustainable private-sector based on economic growth it needs to support those areas that are the economic drivers of the UK, such as Suffolk.”

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However, Cathy Arbon, president of Suffolk Chamber, said: “We believe that the Government’s decisive moves to cut the deficit will have positive effects on business and investor confidence.”