What the Budget means for the North East - mixed reaction from region's business organisations
Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget has been given a mixed reaction by the North East’s leading business organisation.
Reacting to today's speech, North East England Chamber of Commerce Policy and Representation Director Rhiannon Bearne said the Chancellor had made some welcome announcements – but missed opportunities the ball on some important areas.
"Today’s Budget covers some important policy territory for the North East,” she said.
"On childcare, support for older workers and devolution and enterprise zones, it appears the Chancellor has listened to many of our members’ calls. This is positive news for people living, working and earning in the North East.
“The announcement of two Investment Zones for the region is positive news and will complement existing and expanding devolution arrangements. Opportunities for local leaders and stakeholders to maximise the impact of these plans are welcome.”
The Government had also listened to concerns over the soaring cost of childcare and its impact on parents trying to get back into work: “The Chamber’s asks on childcare have begun to be addressed, with interventions to address both supply and demand in relation to the childcare market,” said Ms Bearne.
"Helping more parents to access work will have a major productivity dividend.”
With the percentage of people in the region classed as economically inactive still higher than the national average, more support to get people back into work was welcome – but increased help for younger people was urgently needed: “Our Budget submission had a strong focus on reducing economic inactivity so it’s reassuring to see the government’s focus on older workers.
"However, once again, the under investment in our further education system has been overlooked. This is a vital feature of the skills system and we will continue to lobby for full and fair support.
‘It appears the Chancellor has listened’
“There were also some missed opportunities on tax deductions, and a lack of incentives to encourage businesses to invest in workforce development, notably freeing up the Apprenticeship Levy.
“In the run up to the Budget, our region spoke with one voice on critical issues like devolution, skills and childcare.
"It appears the Chancellor has listened – we will continue to work with our members and wider partners to keep this important dialogue going.”
North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Business and Sector Growth Director Colin Bell welcomed some of the speech’s announcements - but said it did not go far enough to stimulate growth: “Although the North East LEP welcomes the news that the UK is likely to avoid a technical recession, we also recognise the pattern of low growth and low productivity will remain over the forecast period and tt more needs to be done to stimulate the economy,” he said
“One of the greatest pressures on businesses is access to talent and skills and the introduction of ‘returneeships’ for those over 50, and 30 hours’ free childcare for children over nine months, will help provide greater access to the skills businesses are crying out for and support the transition back to work .
“The lack of further measures to support businesses to offset the cost of energy may, however, continue to suppress investment.
“The transition of LEP functions is already under way under the region’s devolution deal and we look forward to working with stakeholders across the region.”