Businesses bosses welcomed the Budget’s move to cut the burden of tax.
But the Chancellor’s failure to mention the region in his reference to the Government’s plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was a major concern for North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) Head of Policy and Campaigns Jonathan Walker.
Businesses across the North are becoming increasingly impatient, and are chomping at the bit to play their part.Chris Hearld, chairman for KPMG in the North
“Today’s Budget continues a clear direction of travel started by the Conservatives in the last government,” he said.
“However, it sees other parts of the country move ahead of the North East in securing a devolution settlement and we need to know why this is the case.
“It is of the utmost importance that the region makes significant progress in this area as soon as possible to avoid being left behind.
“The business community is united in its desire to see the North East prosper. We are, therefore, keen to explore all options that would enable a meaningful deal to be secured, including the possibility of an elected mayor. This deal must equip the North East with the necessary tools and responsibilities to shape its own economic future.”
The chamber welcomed moves to cut Corporation Tax to 18% by 2020, said Mr Walker.
“This will be a valued boost to our members and will make the country more attractive to investors, but more needs to be done to support inward investment to the North East, especially as our region faces exposure to devolved funding flexibilities in Scotland.”
The plan to increase a Living Wage to £9 per hour by 2020 would have an impact on many chamber members, he added.
“The NECC encourages its members to reward their employees with a fair wage and believe any minimum wage levels should be established according to standards set by the Low Pay Commission,” said Mr Walker.
“Our members will want assurances that the burden on smaller firms will be minimised, as any adjustment will hit them the most. We welcome the proposals to alleviate the impact through the tax system and urge the government to consider the views of small businesses when implementing this policy.”
The chancellor announced plans for an Oyster-style card for public transport across the region, but made no commitments on infrastructure investment.
Chris Hearld, chairman for KPMG in the North, said: “It was incredibly disappointing that no further announcements were made regarding investments in our regional transport infrastructure.
“While the introduction of an Oyster card system across the North is a nice gesture in principal, it will do absolutely nothing to alleviate the lack of capacity and very little to improve the connectivity on our region’s ever-crumbling rail network.
“Businesses across the North are becoming increasingly impatient, and are chomping at the bit to play their part. But their role must be underpinned by dramatic improvements to the transport infrastructure across the region to ensure our businesses, people and resources are better connected. Without this, the Northern Powerhouse will not take off.”