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East Midlands Chamber of Commerce reacts to government budget announcement

Local business support group, East Midlands Chamber of Commerce has praised the chancellor's "reassuring" budget plans, in the midst of coronavirus concerns.

The Chancellor says coronavirus will have a "significant impact" on the UK economy, but Rishi Sunak insists it will be temporary.

His budget's focused on supporting businesses hit by the outbreak.

There are cash grants for smaller firms, who'll also see business rates abolished, and the government will cover the cost of sick pay.

The NHS and other public services are getting 5 billion pounds to help them cope.

27 billion pounds is being spent on strategic roads and motorways, along with money to tackle potholes.

Fuel duty will remain frozen, and there won't be any change to taxes on alcohol or cigarettes.

Among the green policies, there'll be a new tax on plastic packaging, and higher duty on gas.

The chancellor also confirmed a number of other policies, including scrapping the so-called "tampon tax" and increasing the National Insurance threshold to 9-thousand-500 pounds.

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at the Chamber, said:“Given the current challenges being faced, the Chancellor did a good job of reassuring businesses and communities of Government’s intention to offer meaningful and robust support during this period of uncertainty.

“Specifically, support in the form of additional business rates relief for the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors – and SMEs in general - will be welcomed, given the current and anticipated impact of coronavirus.

“Employers are already working closely with employees on coronavirus concerns, however the additional support around statutory sick pay for SMEs with fewer than 250 employees will be welcomed.

“Away from immediate challenges, Government’s commitment to “unleash the power of business” will be well received; although, as ever, the devil will be in the detail.

“More funding for start-up loans, backing for businesses looking to export, as well as continued support from Growth Hubs are all important part of developing the business support landscape following our exit from the European Union and, in the fullness of time, details will be required as to how such elements will be funded.

As a region blessed with innovative and forward-thinking businesses, the extra support announced in relation to R&D investment is encouraging, although more businesses need to be supported to access this.

“If the East Midlands is to truly level up, infrastructure investment is paramount and to that end, a recommitment to major infrastructure in the region - including the pre-announced Transforming Cities Fund for Derby and Nottingham – is a positive, as is the

commitment to improving the strategically important A46, often referred to as the Trans-Midlands Trade Corridor.

“Further funding for the Midlands Rail Hub, which unlocks regional rail routes across the East Midlands, and £27bn funding for the country’s strategic roads network, will also be crucial to our region’s long-term prosperity. 

“Equally, the focus on investing in high-skill, high-wage, low carbon jobs presents a real opportunity for the East Midlands, while additional funding for flood damage repair will be important for the parts of our region affected.

“Finally, while some measures announced in Mr Sunak’s speech centred on Education, the Budget statement was relatively light on how we ensure businesses access the right people in the long term – away from immediate pressures, this is one of the biggest priorities we face as a country and a perennial issue facing members we speak with.

“On the whole, though, businesses across the East Midlands will be encouraged by the measures outlined in the Budget and the impact such measures will have in the short-term and moving forward.”

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