What do Suffolk business leaders want from Rishi Sunak's budget?

Rishi Sunak Budget 2021

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will reveal his second budget of the year this week - Credit: PA/Suffolk Chamber

Business leaders in Suffolk have outlined what they want from Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget on Wednesday - and it includes calls for a business rates review.

The chancellor is set to announce new rates of tax, a new minimum wage and changes to Government spending including health, schools and police.

It will detail how the Government plans to support businesses to bounce back from the impacts of Covid, as well as long-term goals like investing in poorer areas of the country and climate change. 

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has outlined what budget measures could help the local economy:

  • Funding for key transport upgrades, specifically a firm commitment to upgrading the Haughley rail junction which would improve freight and passenger journey times
  • Committing to a date for the much-delayed Business Rates Review
  • Additional funding for adult skills to help retrain and upskill individuals to ensure a local skills pipeline matches the medium to long-term needs of the county’s businesses
  • A programme to help businesses in the short-term with the rising costs of energy (especially those in the manufacturing, production and construction sectors) including a VAT cut on energy bills
Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the furlough scheme until September back in March

It has been reported that Rishi Sunak may not cut business rates this week - Credit: PA

Paul Simon, head of communications and policy at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "Suffolk Chamber believes that this Budget offers an opportunity, if the right elements are included by the Chancellor, to nudge forwards the ongoing recovery of the county’s business community instead of threatening to stall it.

"Some of these, such as the rail upgrade at Haughley Junction, would cost comparatively little but would realise significant national as well as local economic and environmental benefits.

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"Others, such as kickstarting the long-delayed review of the perverse and discredited Business Rates system, would boost the confidence of local companies as it would indicate that the Government truly does have their best interests at heart.”

Business rates are a tax on property used for business purposes, the funds go to help fund services in the local authority.

The increase in minimum wage, from £8.91 per hour to £9.50, may help the hospitality industry which has had a large number of vacancies nationally.

Although Brendan Padfield, who runs The Unruly Pig just outside Woodbridge, says that despite wages already rising significantly in the industry to attract people to the there is still 'no queue' of people applying for jobs.

Mr Padfield hopes the changes from the Budget will help relieve some of the strains his industry has been under.

Brendan Padfield, owner of The Unruly Pig

Brendan Padfield, owner of The Unruly Pig - Credit: Copyright Claudia Gannon 2020

He said: "My number one, all important , hugely critical wish for the budget is that VAT stays at 12.5% for the hospitality and tourism sector.

"The slings and arrows faced by pubs, hotels and restaurants since March 2020 have been unrivalled. Bad enough we were forced to close for 10 months via the varying lockdowns, but now we are allowed to trade we are facing a perfect but chaotic storm of events.

"Brexit has caused enormous labour shortages throughout hospitality and thus salaries are shooting up but, despite these increases, there is no queue of new employees outside the door. Added to this is significant food cost inflation, energy cost rises and certain shortages/delivery issues, then it still feels like a much beleaguered industry.

"Secondly, the whole system of alcohol duty needs a radical overhaul. How can it be right that there are significant disparities in the amount of duty charged for the same strength drinks: a relatively weak bottle of wine faces duty of 50 pence per unit of alcohol but the duty on cider is just 7 pence per unit. It’s bonkers."

The chancellor is expected to announce to the alcohol tax system, which could see beverages like sparkling wine become cheaper.

The current outlook for the budget is that taxes will have to rise as the Government tries to recoup some of the huge amounts of money it borrowed last year the keep the country afloat during the pandemic.

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