BUSINESS and union bosses in the region gave a mixed reception to George Osborne’s autumn statement yesterday.
North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) director of policy Ross Smith, described the statement, with its fuel duty freeze and commitment to improving the A1 between London and the region, as “the first budget announcement from the Coalition Government that business in the North East can really get behind.”
He added: “The £378million upgrade of the A1 to motorway from London to Newcastle is a huge success for those of us who have lobbied long and hard for infrastructure investment and will help our firms deliver more for UK PLC, as well as alleviate congestion at pinch points on the Western Bypass.
“With the North East’s excellent export performance, we are also pleased the Chancellor has listened to calls for greater investment in overseas trade support, which can help companies break into new markets across the globe.”
He also welcomed a pledge of £70million in new funding, the halt to fuel tax rise and reduction of corporation tax, as well as additional cash through the Regional Growth Fund and for Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Paul Jasper, chairman of the 40-strong Sunderland Association of Driving Instructors (SADI), is delighted the planned fuel duty hike has been axed.
He said: “I was expecting it – I didn’t think he would silly enough to press ahead with it, but it is certainly a welcome break for all of us.
“Now we’re just waiting for the petrol companies to put their prices down a bit more and that will be a nice Christmas present.”
Peter Stoddart, who runs TaxAssist Accountants in Sunderland, said the statement could have done more to support local economies.
He said: “The Chancellor said there was no miracle cure, but there could have been more antidotes to help aid recovery.
“Extending small business rate relief to April 2014 is good news for many small businesses.
“We also welcome the cancellation of the planned 3p fuel duty rise.
“For Sunderland tradespeople and service providers who make home visits, their cars and vans are a vital part of their service, not a luxury and they can’t absorb the cost of fuel price increases.
“The tenfold increase in the annual investment allowance to £250,000 for plant and machinery, will also be a welcome boost for growing small businesses, such as local print, construction and IT companies, for example.”
He said the Government needs to do more to level the playing field and help Sunderland small businesses access vital funding to create growth and jobs.
Commenting on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement this afternoon Kevin Rowan, Northern TUC Regional Secretary said: “The Chancellor’s autumn statement is riddled with half-hearted efforts to rectify his early and rash mistakes.
“Ordinary working people are still being made to pay for a crisis not of their making. An economic recession is being turned into a social recession by George Osborne’s discredited austerity measures.”