Helpful Measures and Disappointing Omissions.
Business leaders in Greater Birmingham said today’s Budget was a mixed bag of helpful measures and disappointing omissions.
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) welcomed moves to help exporters with the doubling of finance available to £3 billion, reforms to air passenger duty (APD) and a commitment to house building.
However, there was a lack of focus by George Osborne on capital spending, infrastructure investment, devolution and a business rates revaluation.
GBCC president Tim Pile said: “We hugely welcome the measures to double export finance and this will assist West Midlands exporters to further increase their global sales. This region is already a success story and as a nation we need to capitalise on this. Expanding export finance will help those firms nervous about receiving payment from foreign clients.
“UKTI and the Chamber work closely with businesses across the region to encourage them to export and we are glad the Chancellor recognises that this will help an export-led recovery.
“APD has historically been a convenient way for the Treasury to raise revenue so reforming this tax is a bold move. The reforms mean that the West Indies and South Asia will be brought into the same tax bracket as the US.
“Greater Birmingham has an incredible wealth of diversity in business and this will greatly help firms with links in these parts of the world.
“However, the Budget did not address the role of devolution. We will remind the Chancellor of one of our key policy campaigns to see an expansion to the Single Local Growth Fund to £5 billion and to ensure that local authorities, LEPs and Chambers had an effective voice in prioritising key local infrastructure projects.
“We welcome the Chancellor’s decision to extend grants to small business to take on apprenticeships and his commitment to the importance of manufacturing.
“However, while there was a commitment to apprenticeship, keys measures that the Chamber has campaigned for, such as the direct funding for apprenticeships through paid tax breaks and the introduction of a new £100 million Future Workforce Grant, were not included.
“Birmingham has a long-term structural unemployment problem and there is a need to strong focus on getting apprentices into business.
“The omission of any measurers to increase tax relief to encourage investment in young entrepreneurs through the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) was disappointing.”
Mr Pile summed up the Budget as a ”reaffirmation of the importance of manufacturing and exporting, vital to the West Midlands economy and we fully support his mission to ensure ‘Britain makes things again’.
“However, we urge the Chancellor that devolution of decision making to local bodies does not fall off the Government’s agenda.”