Commenting on the Spring Statement, delivered today (Tuesday) by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denise Rossiter, Chief Executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said:
“Businesses will be encouraged by the Chancellor’s report on the UK’s fiscal health, with lower projections for the deficit and falling national debt, as well as his full-throated defence of the market economy and the role of the private sector in delivering prosperity”.
“Yet as deficit and debt levels improve, the Chancellor must resist calls to pour money into politically-attractive, short-term spending priorities. Any headroom the Chancellor has must be used to leave a lasting mark on the UK’s infrastructure and to attract investment – particularly with the challenges and changes of Brexit ahead.
“A far stronger push is needed to fund and fix the fundamentals here in the UK over the coming months, and business wants the Chancellor to use his Autumn Budget to double down and spend to improve digital connectivity, deliver further road and rail improvements, strengthen the UK’s energy security and build more houses. Existing plans alone are not enough, as we have seen in Essex with proposals for improving the A12 and A120 still under review and businesses still complaining about poor broadband and mobile phone connectivity”.
“Given that businesses across the UK have long complained about constant tinkering with tax rates, the Statement’s lack of tax and spending changes is welcome – and not before time. A clear annual cycle will mean fewer rushed policies and give firms the time they need to plan for any changes that come their way.”
On business rates:
“We are pleased that the government has listened to our calls to make revaluations more frequent. Switching to a three-year-cycle will go some way to reducing the huge changes in rates bills that clobber firms across the UK, and enable them to plan their growth strategies with greater confidence”.
“However, a system that responds more frequently to changing economic conditions must also be simpler for firms to navigate. The current system already generates a huge number of appeals, and if it is not made easier for companies, more frequent valuations would simply make this backlog mushroom. Many members of Essex Chambers would probably say that it is time to consult businesses on reforming the whole system.”
On late payment:
“Previous attempts to tackle late payment have not had the desired effect, because affected firms are often unwilling to jeopardise customer relationships by calling out bad practice. The government must use its convening power to tackle this issue in sectors where it is clear that problems exist.
“Changing payment terms mid-contract, and burying payment terms in the small print when suppliers register for business, are issues that deserve ministers’ attention. However, ultimately improving relationships between businesses is a key part in addressing the problem of late payment.”
On apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy:
“While more funding to support small businesses seeking to employ apprentices is welcome, urgent action is needed to reform and improve the apprenticeship levy – which is currently failing both businesses and the people they want to train. The levy’s lack of flexibility and its complexity are stifling the training aspirations of businesses of all sizes and we would like to see more flexibility on how the levy can be used to provide training in the workplace”