A budget to support investment and growth – or a gamble?

Neil Ashbridge, Chair of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce provides some thoughts on the Budget.

Posted by Neil Ashbridge

Fri 02nd, Nov

Despite the fact that so many details of the Budget had already been published or discussed in various parts of the media, Philip Hammond still managed to surprise political commentators and adversaries.

There was certainly good news for business with support for investment and growth. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) have both however sounded a note of caution and if not quite the Sword of Damocles, the uncertainty around Brexit also continues to cast a shadow with the news that a new budget will need to be set if there is a no deal Brexit.

On the positive side there was certainly enough for business to celebrate, including the increase in the Annual Investment Allowance to £1m and reducing the cost of apprenticeship training for SMEs, both of which should provide companies with the confidence to invest in capital assets as well as in their workforce. Maintaining the VAT threshold and support for UK high streets are also to be welcomed.

The Liverpool city region will benefit from the announcement that £37 million of funding will be available for Northern Powerhouse Rail to develop a fast rail link between Liverpool and Leeds. Extra funding will also be available to the metro mayors with the city region receiving £38.5m under the Transforming Cities Fund.

So is it fair to call the budget a “bit of a gamble”?

The OBR’s confirmation that the UK’s fiscal outlook is healthier than they expected, with the forecast for 2019 upgraded to 1.6 per cent (previously 1.3 per cent) and forecasted growth in 2020 upgraded to 1.4 per cent (from 1.3 per cent), allowed the Chancellor to provide additional spending on the NHS and public services. However, if UK economic growth remains subdued, he will need to ensure that additional measures are in place to drive productivity and growth.

Fundamental to that is increasing business confidence in the economy and looking beyond Brexit, as uncertainty over future trading conditions continues to act as a brake on business investment in both the manufacturing and services sectors.

Whilst there is much to be applauded in the Budget therefore, it is crucial that we continue to lobby the government on what really matters to business outside the Westminster bubble.

One example is access to finance, which remains a key impediment to business growth according to surveys undertaken by the British Chambers of Commerce and other business groups. Last month I joined representatives from MSIF and the Local Enterprise Partnership at a roundtable workshop to develop the policy position with the Finance & Leasing Association and Association of Certified Chartered Accountants.

An interim report has now been submitted to the government detailing policy priorities for businesses seeking access to finance and the report can be read here.

The key recommendations include enabling better resourcing and coordination of support mechanisms for signposting SMEs to finance and for the government to adopt a more proportionate and holistic approach to regulation affecting small business and those who fund them.

Let’s hope the Chancellor is still in the mood for listening!

Leave a comment

Why now is the right time to take IoT seriously

Mon 27th, Jul

Guest blog by Alan Nunn – Communications Subject Matter Expert at CGI

How IoT can create a sustainable future for water

Mon 27th, Jul

Guest blog by Graham Hainsworth – Director Consulting in CGI’s Water Sector Business

Happy 9th Birthday 6th Door Ltd

Tue 19th, May

As I’m leaning on the stand-up desk in my makeshift home office, that over the weeks has been turned into a video and podcast recording studio

How to take back control of your water costs

Fri 13th, Mar

While most businesses already have a comprehensive strategy in place for their electricity and gas consumption, water management is often overlooked.

How to choose an energy consultancy

Fri 13th, Mar

Most business owners recognise the advantages of shopping around for the best energy deal, but without the time, resource and expertise to find the best tariff, it can be an almost impossible task.

Business energy: Don’t get caught out by rollover rates

Fri 13th, Mar

As a busy business owner, you may feel there are not enough hours in the day to secure your next energy contract. You know you’ll get around to it, but when you’ll get around to it is another matter.

Business water matters – Top 3 water saving tips

Fri 13th, Mar

Water is often referred to as ‘the forgotten utility’. While many large businesses are clearly focussed on their comprehensive energy strategies, it seems many are yet to implement a strategy around managing their water usage.

Know where your cloud data is stored or risk a GDPR fine

Thu 27th, Feb

For businesses who have chosen cloud-based data hosting services there’s a temptation to relax and think “great, we’re paying someone else to take care of our data, we don’t need to worry about it any more.”

Transparency plans could slow down region’s business growth

Thu 27th, Feb

Efforts by regional start-up initiatives that have led to Merseyside outperforming the rest of the UK when it comes to business growth could be hampered by new government proposals, a leading legal expert has claimed.

Backup or risk losing your business

Thu 13th, Feb

Maintaining a robust backup is hard work, it’s important to not only build the correct solution for your business and trust your IT support provider to look after it, but to also maintain a sense of urgency as a business owner to...