Budget – Detailed Reactions & Measures Outlined

For detailed information on various aspects of the 2018 Budget, see the links below.

  • Breakdown of measures announced, categorised into subjects – click here
  • British Chambers of Commerce comments on various measures – click here
  • Economic summary of key points and OBR forecast – click here

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce initial reaction is below.

“We know that a significant period of change lies ahead; that’s why the Chamber network this year, in its Budget submission, called for radical measures to enable business to meet the upcoming challenges facing the UK economy. Measures to boost investment, competitiveness and productivity are needed to embolden the UK economy ahead of and throughout the upcoming period surrounding Brexit.

“We welcome measures such as increasing the annual investment allowance, the package to stimulate high streets, including business rate relief, and encouraging SMEs to take on apprentices.  Conversely, economic growth forecasts remain disturbingly weak, so this is a concern.  It can also be argued that the statement lacked the bigger picture measures needed to drive the economy through Brexit, but some would say that’s an unreasonable criticism given the constraints in this area.

“Given our recent reports on local housing needs and employment land, we welcome the additional money for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, aswell as extending the cancellation of stamp duty for first-time buyers.  On the downside, increasing the National Minimum Wage by almost 5% puts pressure on many employers because of the need to maintain differentials within the workforce.  This is at a time when competition, price pressures and general constraints within the business community are quite testing.

“One policy decision we are still awaiting is on devolution.  There is reference in the red book to extending the Transforming Cities Fund but, until our region gets progress on a devolution settlement, we remain disadvantaged.  The Government needs to give our region the policy-making tools and powers it needs to fully contribute to the economy and decision-making.  We therefore look forward to a renewed Northern Powerhouse strategy next year.

“We will scrutinise the red book further to give a more detailed assessment to our members and the likely impact on the business community and economic growth prospects.”

Budget – Chamber Initial Reaction

“We know that a significant period of change lies ahead; that’s why the Chamber network this year, in its Budget submission, called for radical measures to enable business to meet the upcoming challenges facing the UK economy. Measures to boost investment, competitiveness and productivity are needed to embolden the UK economy ahead of and throughout the upcoming period surrounding Brexit.

“We welcome measures such as increasing the annual investment allowance, the package to stimulate high streets, including business rate relief, and encouraging SMEs to take on apprentices.  Conversely, economic growth forecasts remain disturbingly weak, so this is a concern.  It can also be argued that the statement lacked the bigger picture measures needed to drive the economy through Brexit, but some would say that’s an unreasonable criticism given the constraints in this area.

“Given our recent reports on local housing needs and employment land, we welcome the additional money for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, aswell as extending the cancellation of stamp duty for first-time buyers.  On the downside, increasing the National Minimum Wage by almost 5% puts pressure on many employers because of the need to maintain differentials within the workforce.  This is at a time when competition, price pressures and general constraints within the business community are quite testing.

“One policy decision we are still awaiting is on devolution.  There is reference in the red book to extending the Transforming Cities Fund but, until our region gets progress on a devolution settlement, we remain disadvantaged.  The Government needs to give our region the policy-making tools and powers it needs to fully contribute to the economy and decision-making.  We therefore look forward to a renewed Northern Powerhouse strategy next year.

“We will scrutinise the red book further to give a more detailed assessment to our members and the likely impact on the business community and economic growth prospects.”

Budget Submission: Measures to counter Brexit headwinds

Lobbying key decision makers

The British Chambers of Commerce has met with the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the upcoming Autumn Budget.

BCC has proposed action in seven key areas:
• An exceptional ‘Brexit Investment Incentive’ – with the Annual Investment Allowance boosted to £1m to ‘crowd in’ both domestic and international investment – and stem the weakening in business investment in the face of Brexit uncertainty.

• Introduce a Business Rates Investment Incentive – ease the drag effect of this uniquely iniquitous business tax on investment by providing a 12-month delay before rates are increased when an existing property is expanded or improved and also before rates apply to a new build property.

• A commitment to no new taxes or costs on businesses for the remainder of this parliament – giving businesses the headroom to adjust to Brexit and to invest, recruit and grow.

• Deliver real UK-wide reform to the apprenticeship levy and drop SME co-funding for apprenticeships in England – to ensure that the training system works for everyone and eases the UK’s chronic skills shortage.

• Delay the roll-out of Making Tax Digital for all businesses by one year – to provide HMRC and businesses with the headroom to prepare for this major change to the way tax is collected.

• Abandon the uprating of business rates for the next two financial years for all businesses on the high street in town and city centres – to ease the financial burden on struggling businesses as they go through significant structural changes.

• Provide the funding needed to achieve full mobile coverage along transport corridors (road and rail) – a crucial step to improving digital connectivity and productivity for businesses that need to communicate with new and existing customers, suppliers and employees.

If these targeted, affordable measures are delivered it would drive greater investment in people, property, infrastructure and capital, lifting both UK growth and productivity.

A BCC spokesperson said: “The ‘business as usual’ approach which has characterised recent fiscal events is no longer sufficient in the face of a sluggish economy and continued Brexit uncertainty. Therefore, we believe that the focus of the Autumn Budget 2018 must be on radical measures to bolster business investment, competitiveness and productivity in the face of Brexit headwinds – without which business communities across the UK will be ill-equipped to overcome the significant period of change that lies ahead.”

‘Bradford Live’ scheme hits the right notes at property lunch

The man leading the scheme to bring Bradford’s former Odeon building back into use gave an update to the business community recently.

Lee Craven, who intends to make ‘Bradford Live’ again, addressed a Chamber of Commerce audience in the city, telling them about the planned uses for the site.  The £20 million scheme will be operated by events and venue specialist, the NEC group.  It is expected that the venue will be up-and-running in September 2020, with 225 events and an anticipated 270,000 visitors each year.

The ‘four venues in one’ project – officially titled ‘Bradford Live’ – will reinvigorate Bradford’s nightlife, aswell as broadening its corporate offer and enhancing the city’s profile and image.  The 4,000 maximum capacity venue will include a 400-capacity lounge, a ballroom to accommodate 800, and four other bars.

Opened in 1930 as the New Victoria and renamed the Gaumont 20 years later, it has been closed since 2000.  There were several declarations of interest in the site in the interim period – whether to demolish and rebuild or to retain and protect its original features – but it now seems the current scheme is moving forwards.  A planning application is to be submitted later this year and leading social entrepreneur Lord Andrew Mawson has been announced as patron to the scheme.

Allan Booth, Chair of Bradford Chamber Property Forum (right, in the above photo), said afterwards:

“This scheme and the whole demolition-versus-save-the-Odeon debate has created many news headlines and column inches over the last few years.  It’s taken a lot of time and patience from Lee and others to persevere with his aspiration to bring the building back to life and he is to be applauded for that.  There were many questions from the floor following his presentation to Chamber members – always a good sign of the level of interest in a topic. We look forward to hearing from and supporting the progress of ‘Bradford Live’ – it’s another piece in the Bradford city centre regeneration jigsaw.”

The event took place at the Great Victoria Hotel, and was hosted by Bradford Chamber Property Forum chairman, Allan Booth.  Allan is a Director with Saltaire-based architects Rance Booth Smith.

Lee’s presentation can be found here

 

Survey says Brexit affecting international trade

A survey by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in partnership with DHL Express UK, has today (18 Oct 2018) revealed that almost half – 49% – of businesses have uncertainty over Brexit front of mind when deciding whether to trade internationally, highlighting the economic cost of the persistent lack of political clarity. A similar number (48%) of firms are concerned by the related issue of exchange rate volatility, which can increase the cost of raw materials and potentially make UK exports less competitive. Exchange rate volatility is a much greater concern for manufacturers (61%) and B2C firms (64%) than B2B businesses (36%).

  • Half of businesses surveyed say that Brexit is making it difficult to decide whether to import or export, hampering British trade
  • Volatility of sterling is also causing concern
  • Chambers have long called for clarity for business on the practical questions over Brexit

As EU leaders gather in Brussels, 500 exporters, trade professionals and business leaders have gathered at the BCC International Trade Summit to discuss issues and trends at the forefront of international trade, and to give innovative firms the tools they need to enter new markets. The research also shows that while there are many concerns for businesses when deciding whether to trade internationally, those that do trade internationally are more likely to be innovative within their business – 65% of those that are internationally active have launched a new product or service in the last 12 months, compared to just 41% of firms who are UK-focused.

Government must do more to boost business confidence at the Autumn Budget and incentivise export and import growth. This, coupled with clear progress in negotiations, will encourage firms to take risks and break into new markets, boosting innovation and productivity in the UK economy.

Commenting on the results, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said: “Firms have been dealing with uncertainty over the future relationship with the EU since the referendum two years ago. However, this survey shows that as we get closer to the crunch, the lack of precision is starting to have a material impact on their decision-making. While business faces uncertain times, our research shows that those trading internationally are more innovative and dynamic compared to those who just focus their attention on the UK market. It is vital that clear progress is made in negotiations – to give firms confidence and empower them to take risks and try to break into new markets, creating the Global Britain this government so often talks about.”

Shannon Diett, VP of Marketing, DHL Express UK, added: “The uncertainty expressed by British businesses taking part in this survey mirrors the increasing concern we are hearing from our customers, both of which further highlight the criticality now surrounding the Brexit negotiations. It is important to note however, that increasing the number of markets a business trades with helps to reduce risk and increase the opportunities for growth.”

Leeds next in line for multi-million pound full fibre transformation

With work in Leeds due to start in the New Year, CityFibre and Vodafone are accelerating Britain’s shift away from copper, bringing full fibre infrastructure to one million UK homes and businesses by 2021.

Leeds has been named as one of the first UK locations to benefit from city-wide full fibre connectivity following the announcement of private investment totalling nearly £120m from CityFibre. This future proof infrastructure is expected to deliver millions in economic benefits for the city including £192m in boosted productivity and innovation, £92m in new business start-ups and £255m in increased housing wealth.*

CityFibre is working closely with Leeds City Council to plan and co-ordinate the build so it maximises the benefits of full fibre for the wider community. The new infrastructure will build on CityFibre’s existing Gigabit network in the city, which spans over 117km and already connects hundreds of organisations including Leeds Beckett University Business Centre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and St Georges Crypt.

Full fibre connectivity will enable people across the city to receive superior and more reliable broadband services, capable of Gigabit speeds (1,000 Mbps). Vodafone will use CityFibre’s network to bring Vodafone Gigafast Broadband to customers, delivering affordable fibre connections – retailing for as little as £23 – all the way to their home or business.

Greg Mesch, CEO at CityFibre, said: “We are committed to making Leeds one of the best-connected digital cities in the UK. Building on our existing investment, which has connected schools, businesses and public sectors across the city, we are now committed to bringing this digital capability to homes and businesses throughout Leeds.

“The full fibre age is taking hold across the UK with CityFibre leading the charge. Britain has outgrown its outdated copper infrastructure and now needs fibre to take it into a digitally competitive economic future.”

Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery added: “Overhauling the nation’s broadband is a vital undertaking that we’re proud to be a part of. By bringing the benefits of full fibre to more and more cities and towns, from Stirling to Southend-on-Sea, one million homes across the country can benefit from this world-class technology.”

With the full support of Leeds City Council, work on installing the new full fibre infrastructure will begin in the New Year. CityFibre will use modern build techniques to deploy the network quickly, while minimising disruption to residents. Once completed, almost all businesses, and for the first time, homes, in Leeds will have full fibre access.

Cllr James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for resource and sustainability said: “Leeds City Council is delighted to hear about CityFibre’s ambitious plans to develop a new full fibre network in Leeds.  Encouraging and facilitating investment from private sector providers like CityFibre is an important part of our strategy to help us realise our ambition that all premises in the district, residential and commercial, are able to access gigabit capable services and take advantage of new technologies and new ways of living and working.

“Our Inclusive Growth Strategy sets out our ambitions for Leeds to be recognised as a digital city where a strong economy ensures that everyone in our city can reach their full potential.  CityFibre join other key institutions who have made pledges to signal their ongoing commitment to Leeds and to investing their time and resources to make it the best city in the UK to live, work, study and do business.”

Construction has already commenced in the partnership’s launch cities – Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Aberdeen – and services are now live for the first customers in Milton Keynes, with Vodafone already taking orders for its Gigafast service.

To find out more about CityFibre and its Fibre to the Home roll-out, visit www.cityfibre.com/residential

To find out more about Vodafone’s Gigafast Broadband service, visit www.vodafone.co.uk/gigafast

 

Prime Minister backs inaugural manufacturing scheme

The Prime Minister has given her backing to a Bradford scheme promoting a future in manufacturing for young people.

Theresa May said Bradford Manufacturing Week is a “great opportunity” to showcase future job prospects and careers for young people across the area.

Organisers say more than 1,000 young people have signed up to more than 3,000 manufacturing experiences across the week including tours, work placements, work experiences, school talks and life skills workshops.

And the Prime Minister praised the efforts of those behind the project, which is running for the first time.

“I would like to wish everyone involved in Bradford Manufacturing Week good luck for the days ahead and congratulate Bradford Chamber of Commerce, as well as the sponsors and businesses taking part, for making it happen,” Mrs May said.

“Bradford Manufacturing Week is a great opportunity to demonstrate how our strong economy and modern Industrial Strategy is enabling business to thrive across all sectors, as well as enabling future generations to see the potential of a career in the manufacturing industry.”

 

Green growth the key, says energy boss

Green growth is now front-and-centre of the energy sector, according to a senior director at one of the region’s biggest businesses.

Clare Harbord of Drax power Group told the annual meeting of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce that the business has embraced recent technological advances in order to turn around how it operates.  The energy producer is successfully converting from coal use to bio-mass, and is now on target to meet the 2025 deadline for coal-free energy production.  The changes make it the biggest decarbonisation project in Europe.

Clare, Executive Group Director, spoke to a lunch of Chamber members and guests following the approval of financial and other reports at the Queen’s Hotel, in Leeds.  She also fielded several questions, confirming the view that Drax is a good employer in the region, doing many great things.  Eleven per cent of Europe’s renewable energy is provided from Drax, and more than 1,000 jobs exist at the Selby site.  Schools are encouraged to send pupils on site visits there, in particular girls to get them interested in a career in engineering.

Questions to Clare were on a range of topics, including east-west transport connectivity (with particular reference to re-opening the 11-mile Skipton-Colne rail link), having a post-Brexit energy provision plan, promoting engineering and energy to a diverse future workforce, and the further development of biomass fuel to support the environment.  Before the lunch, Gerald Jennings was re-elected as Chairman of the Chamber Board, which is made up of business representatives from across West and North Yorkshire, plus the organisation’s Chief Executive, Sandy Needham.

Gerald said afterwards:

“It was great to hear from a successful and responsible employer working in a sector that has seen significant change in the last few years.  We are all taking our responsibilities seriously in relation to the environment, and that was evidenced in the number of questions that Clare fielded in a short space of time.  It was also pleasing to note that the Chamber is in a strong position to continue providing top quality business support services and representing its members in influential circles.”

The event was sponsored by the Business Enterprise Fund.

Chamber Chair outlines aspirations

One of the region’s key business leaders has highlighted how more needs to be done to allow local and sub-regional economies to thrive more.

Gerald Jennings, the Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, spoke to business leaders at the organisation’s annual meeting in Leeds recently.  While highlighting the activities and services provided to businesses during the previous 12 months, he also set out the upcoming challenges and opportunities in years to come.  Central to those challenges is the skills agenda, said the former Land Securities boss.  Identifying the extent of the skills gap and its likely effect in the future was now key to the continued success of Bradford, Leeds, York and North Yorkshire, he said.

“Automation is going to change the face of the workplace – as many as a third of current roles in the labour market could disappear over the next 20 years. Let’s really understand what this change will mean for business and see it as an opportunity”, he said.

Following the theme of opportunity, Mr Jennings said that devolution and the Northern Powerhouse concept need to be delivered in order for West & North Yorkshire to fulfil its potential.

“We want to ensure that we play a full role in the economic future of the UK and in the social well-being of all”, said the business leader; but failure to secure a devolution deal in this part of the world was handicapping aspirations.  “We must secure a deal in order to catch up with other regions and create our own future.”  He hinted that “a West Yorkshire settlement could be an initial step towards leading to a larger devolved arrangement when the time is right.  We need to see an agreement with the right governance arrangements and a clear business voice at the table.”

Finally, Mr Jennings offered to lead a more “positive and dynamic” lobbying campaign on transport investment.  Acknowledging that the calls for improved connectivity within and beyond Yorkshire are sometimes perceived negatively elsewhere, the property specialist said that the case for investment, connectivity and social mobility need to be spun positively in order to gain influence.

The Chamber Board Chairman rounded up with some of the business support organisation’s success over the last 12 months, many of which can be found in the published annual report, here.