From David Burch, Director of Policy, Essex Chambers of Commerce
As in previous years, the devil will be in the detail but we are disappointed that there was not more that might be of direct benefit to Essex in today’s Budget Announcements.
We obviously welcome the announcement that the VAT threshold will be capped at £85,000, which will be a real benefit to the small businesses that make up the back bone of the Essex economy. Business Rates are a major issue for many businesses, so we welcome the proposals to switch from the Retail Prices Index to the Consumer Prices Index in April 2018. This is something that we and the British Chambers of Commerce have been strongly campaigning for and will hopefully bring some relief to the businesses of Essex.
The various proposals announced by the Chancellor to boost the housing market are also very welcome given the keen interest in bringing forward housing developments across the County, but we wait to see how these will translate in practice.
The proposals to help stimulate the development of driverless cars and to boost the network of charging points are also welcomed and we hope will be reflected in the emerging proposals for Garden Communities in Essex where such technology could be of real benefit.
Skills are of course highly important and we welcome the continued support for the delivery of Apprenticeships, but we hope that these funds can be used across supply chains and for other quality work place learning. The money being given to Further Education Colleges for the development of the proposed new T Levels, along with the proposed National Training Scheme focussing on digital and construction skills is also important in ensuring we have people with the right skills for the future.
We are however, disappointed not to see a recognition of the importance of the South East to the UK economy, given the continued focus on investment in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine Room. As ever, there may well be announcements to benefit the South East including Essex to come, but without a strong economy in these areas, the Government won’t see the full benefit of their policies for other parts of the UK.