Autumn Statement: pull out all the stops says Northamptonshire Chamber
Ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday November 23, Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce supports the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) asks of the Government to use its ‘reset’ of fiscal policy to pursue measures that incentivise business investment, improve infrastructure, and demonstrate the UK government’s continued support for business.
Pre-existing concerns over a slowing economy have been intensified by the political and economic uncertainty that followed the electorate’s historic vote to leave the European Union. Locally, Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce’s recent Quarterly Economic Survey showed there was a decline in UK sales activity across both the manufacturing and services sectors, with orders – an indication of future demand – also reporting a decrease. Businesses were having to increase prices as a result of an increase in other overheads – such as energy costs. Furthermore, exchange rates as a result of the EU Referendum are also causing concern for businesses. Both Business Rates and Interest Rates were also external factors of concern for firms across the county.
Nationally, the BCC Quarterly Economic Survey showed that businesses have lowered their expectations for hiring, turnover, and investment in plant, machinery, and training in the coming year.
The BCC believes that the Autumn Statement can create the foundations for the UK to successfully navigate the coming transition period, and remain a great place to do business for firms of all sizes.
The BCC submission on behalf of the Accredited Chamber network, of which Northamptonshire Chamber is a part, was handed to the Chancellor at Number 11 in September and proposes seven key measures:
- A pledge to introduce no new input taxes or other significant costs on businesses for the remainder of this Parliament – matching the pledge made to voters on income tax, NICs and VAT during the 2015 General Election campaign
- Further fundamental reform of business rates – exclusion of plant and machinery from valuations; and bringing forward the switch of the annual uprating from RPI to CPI to 2017, from 2020
- Temporary widening of the Annual Investment Allowance – to include business premises improvements for a period of five years, alongside investments in plant and machinery
- Improving the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy – levy-paying businesses should be able to support high-quality workplace and vocational training, in addition to apprenticeships
- Direct investment in ‘quick-start’ infrastructure projects such as housing and broadband – to ‘crowd-in’ private sector investment in infrastructure, regeneration and growth. The Chancellor has already responded in part to this with a new house building programme
- Increased resources to directly support SME export plans – direct monetary support for firms to explore new markets or deepen sales abroad
- Creation of an indirect tax road map – to give businesses much needed clarity to invest with confidence
The Autumn Statement gives the government a great chance to set the tone for its relationship with British business, by pulling out all the stops to support investment, infrastructure improvements, and business confidence.
The Chancellor made the right move when he signaled his willingness to use historically-low interest rates to invest prudently to support growth, and he has a golden opportunity now to use this fiscal flexibility to ‘crowd in’ business investment.
Plans to lower business costs and support investment would help firms take risks and seize opportunities in spite of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process. Westminster must do everything in its gift to improve the business environment – and firms will repay that backing with investment, hiring, training and export growth.
Posted by: Northamptonshire Chamber