What East Anglia needs from Sunak's budget today
- Credit: PA
Don't forget the East today! That's the message from businesses across Suffolk and Essex to Rishi Sunak as he prepares to outline the route out of the Covid-led recession in his budget speech to MPs today.
Business leaders need him to carry on with the support they have have been offered since the economy first went into recession during last spring's lockdown - and has remained in the doldrums as restrictions have remained in place for a year.
Meanwhile, the two largest towns in Suffolk are anxiously awaiting news on their bid for government support for finance to help them make major improvements.
Today as part of our Fightback East coverage we present businesses' needs to ensure the region can emerge from the Covid crisis with a clear way forward - and a platform from which to meet the challenges of the years ahead.
Here are what the region needs to go forward with confidence into the post-Covid world:
Suffolk's two largest communities are hoping for good news on their bids for Towns Deal funding.
Both Ipswich and Lowestoft have bid for tens of millions of pounds of funding for schemes that could help make a huge difference to both their town centres and sometimes neglected neighbourhoods.
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An announcement on both bids is expected during or soon after the Budget statement. Ipswich is bidding for a total of £28m while Lowestoft is hoping to get £25m from the Towns Deal to help improve the area.
A guarantee that there will be no tax increases for business struggling to return to normality after a year of restrictions
Paul Simon from Suffolk Chamber said: "The Budget is absolutely crucial in determining the future viability of thousands of local businesses, many of whose cashflow situations have seriously declined over the last few months.
“That is why we are looking to the Chancellor to ensure that no additional taxes or other burdens are placed upon the business community for many years to come.
"Specifically, we would like to see an extension and expansion in the 100% business rates relief scheme, an immediate, further round of upfront cash grant support – at least equivalent to the £25,000 available in the first national lockdown, an extension to the deferral on VAT until at least the end of 2021 and enhancements to the current Government lending schemes."
Businesses also want to see the retention of the furlough scheme - a proposal which already seems to have been accepted by government ministers although it remains unclear how long it will be extended for.
Mr Simon said: “To protect livelihoods, we are advocating an extension to the Job Retention and Self-Employed Income Support Schemes at least until a full reopening of the economy is possible and at least until the end of July 2021, as well as an expansion in income protection support for directors of limited companies."
The chambers of commerce in both Suffolk and Essex want to see the government go ahead with major investment in the region.
The Suffolk Chamber wants to see a full commitment to improvements to the A14 through Suffolk - a main artery for freight traffic to and from the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich which could form the proposed Freeport East.
It also wants to see an upgraded rail line from Ipswich to Cambridge and Ely to take more lorries off the road while allowing the ports to expand.
Essex Chamber wants to see a guarantee that Highways England will build a new A120 road from the A12 at Marks Tey to Braintree, linking in to the existing dual carriageway to Stansted Airport and the M11.
David Burch from the Essex Chamber said: "That is not in the current Highways England programme but it is in the next five-year plan for the roads although that could change. We want to ensure it is locked in there because it is so important for the whole region."
The upgrade of the A12 from Chelmsford to Colchester is already in the Highways England programme - and both chambers are behind that development.
Both Suffolk and Essex chambers are committed to the proposal for the Freeport East which would create a huge new area covering both Felixstowe and Harwich ports allowing businesses to link up with trade hubs across northern Europe and the rest of the world from a base there.
Freeport East is backed by port owners Hutchison, all the local authorities in the area, the Haven Partnership and other business leaders.
The project could create 13,500 new jobs and bring hundreds of millions of pounds in investment.
Mr Simon said the Suffolk chamber was looking for clear backing for that proposal from the government as a way of boosting trade in a post-Covid, post-Brexit world. Mr Burch said both that and the proposed Thames Freeport in the south of the county were vital.
Both Mr Burch and Mr Simon said the overall message from their members was that the region should not be ignored by the Chancellor.
Mr Burch said: "There is sometimes the perception that the East of England is doing okay, that it doesn't really need the kind help and support that you hear about for the north or midlands.
"But this is a very important region for the country and there are challenges which do need the support of the government - which is good for the whole country."
The chambers are both hoping for more support for other green developments that could boost business across the region.
Freeport East would have a big role in servicing the Galloper windfarm off the Essex coast - while further north the growth of windfarms is expected to boost Lowestoft in the future.
Mr Simon said: “We are also advocating for a New Deal for Business to lock in a long-term economic renewal centred around national growth sectors and sustained training and development support for all workers.
"In Suffolk we are, therefore, asking for clear Government backing for Sizewell C and more agility in the further education system so that the skills needs of business are being met in a way that suits both them and their workforces.”