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Businesses react to Autumn Statement

Business leaders across the Midlands this afternoon welcomed the Chancellor’s focus on business investment and growth in his Autumn Statement.

Tom Bromwich, founding partner of Coventry-based commercial property experts Bromwich Hardy, said changes to the way businesses are taxed and the move to make full expensing permanent – meaning businesses would be able to offset capital expenditure against profits – were welcome.

“The focus on business growth in today’s statement was certainly welcome and something we would hope marks the start of a new strategic drive from the Government.

“The creation of a new West Midlands Investment Zone, two per cent cut to National Insurance and long-term commitment around full expensing will help businesses and their people invest and plan for the future.

“We welcome the move to speed up infrastructure and business planning applications announced today, but we want to see considerably more action on planning reforms. There is a lack of suitable employment land across our region as a result of the current out-dated planning system and unless that changes we simply won’t have the legroom to grow.

“If the Government is as serious as it says about working with business to drive growth and productivity, this is a key area where action must be taken.”

Rachel Laver, the chief executive of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, said

moves to reduce business taxation and promote economic growth were welcome in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis and economic difficulties of the last year.

But she said the Government needed to do more to help businesses meet their Net Zero and environmental responsibilities.

“The focus on business growth in today’s statement was certainly welcome and something we would hope is carried through into March’s Budget and beyond,” Rachel said.

“The abolition of Class 2 National Insurance and reduction of the rate in Class 4 are a boost for our self-employed business community. Small businesses too will benefit from the freezing of the small business multiplier and we’re pleased the Chancellor has extended 75% business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure until 2025.

“The long-term commitment around full expensing will help businesses invest and plan whilst the cut in employee National Insurance will put more money back in workers’ pockets.

“But there needs to be support for businesses to help them do the right thing in regard to the environment and Net Zero. The success of our Marches Energy Grant – which offers firms an energy audit and grant help to introduce energy-saving and Net Zero measures – shows that the appetite is there for such measures.

“There is a need for the Government to drive the change required and work with organisations such as the Marches Growth Hub – the LEP’s business support service – to ensure that businesses are given every opportunity to innovate and take action to reduce emissions and protect the future of the planet.

“Encouraging the take-up of new technologies, promoting innovation and working with business and partners to fill the UK’s skills gap can help drive the growth the country needs and boost productivity in a truly sustainable way.”

Neil Lloyd, managing partner of FBC Manby Bowdler, said the Chancellor’s decision to make full expensing permanent would be welcomed by firms across Shropshire and the West Midlands.

He said: “Every business needs regular investment if it is to grow and thrive, and extending this tax relief will provide certainty for business owners and could persuade many to commit to the new buildings, equipment and jobs that their business needs.

“This tax relief is expensive though, costing the Treasury about £10bn a year, so the Chancellor will have to offset it with less popular policies elsewhere.

“For small businesses, which account for the vast majority of enterprises across Shropshire and the West Midlands, the package of 110 measures to support business growth is also welcomed as is plans for the new West Midlands investment zone.”

Steven Owen, managing director of the leading Shropshire construction company Pave Aways, said Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement included some positive announcements.

He said: “I wholeheartedly welcome the Chancellor’s focus on business and growth, particularly business tax cuts and the extension of the “full expensing” tax relief scheme which is vital to support investment.

“The creation of an Investment Zone focused on Wrexham will bring a big boost to North East Wales and the 110 measures to drive growth will deliver a huge boost for the many small Shropshire and Mid Wales contractors and businesses which make up our supply chain.

“We are passionate about supporting and developing the economy of our local community and I am delighted the Chancellor has recognised the need to help this vital sector.

“I also welcome the changes to the planning system announced in the Autumn Statement. The country needs new homes and we need to get the property market moving again, so anything which removes barriers to planning and development is a positive move.”

Anton Gunter, managing director at Global Freight Services in Telford, said today’s decision by the Chancellor to support small business growth was to be welcomed.

He said: “We very much welcome the package of measures announced to support business growth for SMEs and in particular the move to strengthen support for exporting.

“The opportunities for small businesses to export their products and services globally are huge whether they operate from a garden shed or multiple production sites and so anything that encourages more businesses to trade internationally has to be a good thing.

“As a nation we need to be more ambitious and making sure companies can sell their goods into global markets confidently is essential.”

Mr Gunter also welcomed plans for the new West Midlands Investment Zone saying this would also put a real focus on business growth across the region.

Wayne Carter, managing director of Telford manufacturing company Fabweld Steel Products, said the Chancellor’s funding boost for the manufacturing sector was a “pleasant surprise” and particularly welcomed the focus to support plans for net zero transition.

The company, which designs access covers for the water, energy and security industries, is committed to operating in a sustainable way and reducing its impact on the environment and has installed solar panels and implemented changes to reduce direct emissions and the emissions related to its energy use.

Wayne said: “The Chancellor’s £4.5bn investment programme shows a real commitment to the industry. But it’s his £960m Green Industries Growth Accelerator that’s really caught our eye. This could prove invaluable.

“Supply chain issues caused by Covid and volatile energy prices highlighted how vulnerable our industry was to geopolitical and world events. That’s why we wanted to take back control – with investment in the greenest way possible – to benefit the planet, the business, customers and employees.

“We’re now seeing our commitment to clean energy at FSP paying off, but we’ve been lobbying local government and parliament for support for a while now, so to feel heard is a huge relief.

“But the fight’s not over yet. All we can do is hope that this investment proves to be transformative for the sector. The UK remains a world-leader in cutting emissions, having decarbonised faster than any G7 country since 1990, but we’ve still a long way to go for manufacturing to play its part in achieving Net Zero by 2050.”

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