Chamber raises concerns over Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement
Business leaders in the West Midlands today said that the Chancellor’s autumn statement was a “mixed bag” that will raise concerns in some areas.
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) said it was good to hear Mr Osborne recognise the power of the region, highlighting how the Midlands is ‘creating jobs three times faster than London and the South East’.
Henrietta Brealey (pictured), policy director at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), said: “Birmingham alone created 21,000 private sector jobs in 2014, more than any other core city and the West Midlands exports more than Scotland and Wales combined. The Midlands Engine is a force to be reckoned with.”
She added: “Regarding tax, we support the Chancellor’s wish to modernise and digitise the tax system. However, we have an ever-increasingly complex tax administration in the UK.
“Earlier this year the Government pledged a “bonfire of red tape” and introduced a ‘”one in two out” rule on regulation, excluding tax administration. We would like the Government to take clearer action to not just modernise the process of paying tax, but the whole system, to make it simpler and less costly for businesses.
“We also have concerns about the introduction of an Apprenticeship Levy as described by the Chancellor. Businesses want to do their bit to support and train young people and engage with apprenticeships.
“However, if the levy is, as was described, simply a 0.5 per cent additional tax on the wage bill of all businesses (with an allowance of up to £15,000) it could amount to another costly administrative and financial burden on firms, hampering rather than driving recruitment and training intentions. We were, however, pleased to hear that funding for FE and adult skills will be protected in cash terms.
“The 17 per cent cuts announced to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills also raise concerns. While we will not know exactly where the axe will fall in terms of this department’s spending, we do need to see funding for business support programmes such as UKTI, maintained if the government wants to achieve its ambitious targets for exports and economic growth.”
Describing the statement as a “mixed bag”, Ms Brealey said: “The Chancellor’s announcement that capital funding of transport projects will rise by 50 per cent will no doubt be welcomed by businesses in the region who are struggling under our congested road and rail network.
“We are, however, concerned by the Chancellor’s emphasis on London and the North in relation to infrastructure spending. We need to see a fair distribution of infrastructure spend to support our region’s growth.
“We welcome confirmation that Small Business Rate relief will be extended. But while there are potential benefits to the devolved power over business rates, the fundamental issue for businesses isn’t who controls what receipts but the actual system itself which is complex, outdated and in need of reform. We want to see more action on improving the business rates system.
“Overall we were pleased to hear the Chancellor approach the review with a clear commitment to balancing the books while emphasising economic security.”