‘Little cheer’ in Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, say Essex small business leaders

BUSINESS leaders in Essex have warned that the Chancellor of the Excheque is pricing business out of the county following his Autumn Statement today.

Essex Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) chairman Iain Wicks claimed the county was losing out to the north of the country.

“Once again this Government is pouring money into the north to support businesses while ignoring the fact that businesses in Essex, Havering and Redbridge as well as the wider South East also need support,” he said.

“This area is meant to be the engine room of the economy but it needs oil from the Government to keep it functioning.

“The �5billion infrastructure fund ignores the need to improve Junction 30/31 on the M25 and the need to invest in the A12 while the 100% capital allowance relief for businesses in Enterprise Zones does not include the West Essex Enterprise Zone at Harlow so how can it compete with other Enterprise Zones in the north to attract new firms?

“The tolls on the Humber Bridge are being halved while in the South East we are told the Dartford Crossing tolls will not be increased until after the 2012 Olympic Games.”

Mr Wicks accused the Government of “clear discrimination” against Essex and the South East.

Most Read

“I am sure there are many local business people wondering why they voted for this Government,” he said.

He expressed scepticism about a National Loan Guarantee Scheme announced by Chancellor George Osborne, which was expected to enable businesses to borrow money at 1% below the interest they would otherwise be charged.

“The National Loan Guarantee Scheme looks good in theory as it promises to reduce interest rates on loans and overdrafts for small businesses but we have heard such promises before and not seen them delivered,” said Mr Wicks.

“The extra �1bn for the Regional Growth Fund for England again looks good on the surface but the last round of bids saw very little of that cash allocated for this area – indeed a proposal to create more than 3,500 new apprenticeships in small businesses across the areas covered by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (Essex, East Sussex and Kent) and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (Norfolk and Suffolk) was rejected despite its clear objectives of reducing youth unemployment, improving skills and supporting SMEs.

“The business rates holiday extension until April 2013 helps businesses in small premises but we are still expecting business rates to increase for those in larger premises – and that doesn’t necessarily mean the more profitable businesses as engineering and manufacturing takes a lot of space but often has low profit margins.”

He welcomed the axing of the 3p increase in fuel duty planned for January 2012, saying it will help businesses as it will not increase their costs, but added that they are still facing fuel prices at very high levels.

“The plans for superfast broadband, a new Thames Crossing and a Hub Airport are not schemes that will bring immediate benefits for local businesses,” he said.

“I do not belief this Autumn Statement will restore business confidence nationally and in Essex, Havering and Redbridge may even make businesses less likely to invest, expand and create new jobs.”