NORTH-East business leaders gave a mixed response to Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.
Yesterday’s speech included plans to halve business rates for new occupants moving into empty properties, in a bid to reverse the flow of business going out of Britian’s city centres.
Giles McCourt, of the Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association, said: “This will help to rejuvenate the high street and city centre properties which have been empty for years.
“Hopefully it will make the city centre more attractive to retailers and other businesses.”
The Chancellor also announced that the small business rate relief scheme will be extended for another year from April, and any rise in business rates will be capped at two per cent.
“Rates have been an issue for a long, long time,” said Mr McCourt.
“Any assistance is to be welcomed.”
The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) gave some of the statement’s contents a thumbs-up, but said more needed to be done to help the region unlock its full potential.
Chief executive James Ramsbotham said Mr Osborne had listened to some of the key points put forward in the chamber’s submission, but had failed to live up to his pledge to shift the balance of the national economy away from London and the South East.
“The message from the Chancellor is that his economic recovery plan is working, but there remains much to be done,” he said.
“I agree we must continue to push the slow steady growth we have seen over the past 18 months in the region, but the measures announced today do not go far enough if we are to realise the North East’s true potential.
“Business is the driving force behind the recovery. Investing with more ambition in support measures for business is a guaranteed way of revving up growth in a sustainable way.
“While we must welcome his decision to freeze business rates at two per cent, the doubling of export support to £50billion, cancelling rises to fuel duty next year and addressing the issue of National Insurance Contributions for young people, it feels a little like an opportunity has been missed with a slightly unambitious Autumn Statement.”
A University of Sunderland spokesman welcomed plans to lift the cap on people in higher education.
They said: “Giving as many people with talent the opportunity to enter higher education as possible is something we have been doing for more than 20 years.
“This would pave the way for increased levels of skilled graduates in the city, the region and the wider UK.”