Chamber chief responds to Spring Budget

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 10th, Mar

This week has been a critical week for the Chamber – National Apprenticeships Week, International Women’s Day and of course, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first and final Spring Budget.

And let’s talk about that, shall we?

Liverpool & Sefton Chambers, along with British Chambers of Commerce has long been lobbying for business rates reform.

In his Budget, Mr Hammond announced a raft of measures to help businesses fearful of an imminent rise in business rates. This is certainly welcome news.

For a long time now the Chamber has called for a review of the system, which is as I see it, fundamentally broken.

The announced cap for small businesses - coupled with the proposed discount on business rate bills for pub landlords - is at least some sign that Government are beginning to take the issue seriously and feels like the first time in a long time we have had any real sign of change to the system.

The £300m fund set to be made available to councils to allow them to provide discretional relief on a case-by-case basis is further heartening – though counteracted by the rise in National Insurance contributions for the self-employed, which feels out of touch, to say the least.

It was refreshing to hear The Chancellor admit challenges around productivity in the UK, which lags behind other comparable nations. I welcome any motion to improving the UK’s productivity but am determined to see more investment in the North.

It is extraordinary that some days it can take two hours to travel between Liverpool and Manchester - two cities just 35 miles apart.

The £90m that was announced to improve ‘pinch points’ on roads in the North is not a lot of money at all and simply won’t be enough to solve what is an inherent problem that has long been stifling our economic growth.

And on a day that celebrates strong and enterprising women, it was interesting to hear the Chancellors commitment to supporting women and improving gender equality. The £5m ringfenced for ‘returnships’ for women hardly feels adequate.

The elephant in the room though, was the Chancellors evasion of the B-word and the absence of international trade and export.

It is fair to say that the budget was, perhaps more than ever, light on detail. We can only wait and see what will come over the following days and weeks.

 

Jenny

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