GEORGE Osborne failed to find favour with union or business leaders with his budget speech.
The Chancellor managed the rare feat of uniting TUC regional secretary Kevin Rowan and North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham in disappointment.
Mr Rowan said: “This budget has confirmed the Government’s obsession with austerity at all costs.
“While the Chancellor can afford to make gestures to the wealthiest in abolishing the top rate of tax there was very, very little in the budget to enable the North East to capitalise on potential growth in areas like offshore wind manufacturing or any apparent benefit from promised transport infrastructure investment.
“Introducing regionalised pay will take millions out of the economy, not only harming public sector workers, but severely damaging key areas of retail, hospitality and tourism.
“This is a bad budget for the economy and especially bad for this region.”
James Ramsbotham accused the Chancellor of producing a Budget that was big on style but short on substance:
“The Chancellor has approached this Budget with the right intentions but unfortunately missed the mark somewhat by failing to introduce measures that could and would have made a greater difference,” he said.
“There are a number of genuine positives for regional businesses contained in his announcement, notably the cut to corporation tax, a more simplified carbon reduction commitment, tax relief for high-tech companies and the reaffirmation that planning reform will go through, all of which will be welcomed by regional firms.
“The Chancellor also set out his ambition to double UK exports within a decade. That would have a huge impact on the North East, as we already punch above our weight.
“But there was very little detail on the means by which this will be achieved.
“There was also very little to address the challenges we face here in the North East.
“There was nothing included in the Budget that would support investment in the North East, nothing to stimulate employment and very little that will have a significant impact on improving regional business confidence.”
David Dunn, Chief Executive Officer of Sunderland Software City, had a mixed reaction to the speech:
“There were both positive proposals and missed opportunities in the budget,” he said.
“We were pleased to see the Chancellor promise tax relief for the video games development, which many in our industry have long-campaigned for and the announcement of better use of Research and Development credits to drive innovation
“It was also important he recognised the significance of a world class digital infrastructure for UK competitiveness, something we are already reaping the rewards from in Sunderland and the wider North East.
“On the other hand, there appeared to be little to directly tackle the acute skills shortage inhibiting the growth of the IT industry - Sunderland Software City would have like to see a pilot software trainee scheme, which would also have helped address youth unemployment.”
Mr Osborne’s decision to stick the best part of 40p on the price of a packet of cigarettes brought a scathing response from John Abbott, North East spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, who accused the Government of playing into the hands of criminals:
“It is very disappointing that the Chancellor has raised the tax on tobacco,” he said.
“All this will do is increase the appeal of buying from smugglers who can charge half of what I do in the shop.
“You can’t blame smokers from being tempted by a 50 per cent off deal, especially in this economic climate.
“The Government is introducing a tobacco display ban and looking at introducing plain packaging, both in an effort to reduce underage smoking.
“So it is ironic that by raising the tax on legitimate sales, the government will be encouraging more underage people to buy from smugglers, who do not care about the age of their customers.”