Paul Cherpeau, chief executive, Liverpool Chamber, said:
“As businesses in the Liverpool City Region face up to a mounting burden of financial pressures, today’s statement will provide some welcome relief, but the Chancellor could have done more to reassure businesses.
“It’s certainly encouraging to see the government focussing on encouraging private sector innovation through improved R&D incentives and greater investment in training to close the skills and productivity gap.
“Reforming the apprenticeship levy to make sure it’s effective and the increase in the employment allowance up to £5,000 should help SMEs to build for the future with greater optimism.
“The year-long 5p cut in fuel duty may offer some comfort to transport and logistics operators albeit for only a short time, but the level of impact across the business base is questionable, particularly if the base cost of fuel continues to rise. It won’t insulate businesses from the rising costs but it should soften the blow a little.
“It is unclear whether the increase in the National Insurance threshold will benefit employers as well as employees. If the threshold for businesses’ contributions is also to be higher, those with high numbers of lower-paid or part-time staff will welcome the opportunity to limit their expenses, although the planned overall increase in National Insurance will still adversely affect people’s spending power across the board amid rising costs elsewhere.
“Our tourist attractions and hospitality venues will be highly concerned to see the 12.5% VAT rate expire in April. This lower rate has been the catalyst for many to survive over the past two years and it would have provided further breathing space as they tackle a period of uncertainty.
“We are also disappointed that the government has not pledged to do more for those energy intensive businesses, while our calls have also been ignored for a moratorium for the life of this parliament on all policy measures that increase business costs.
“For firms to create jobs and provide the stronger economy the Chancellor says he wants to build, they need to feel confident about doing business today and investing for tomorrow. This announcement feels like a missed opportunity to truly drive home that message of reassurance from central government.”