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Jane Imrie

"A large green step in the right direction": Yorkshire business leaders react to Spring Budget 2021

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has today unveiled his annual budget.

This year’s Spring Budget announcement unveiled plans for investment into offshore wind projects in Humberside as well as the launch of the UK’s first infrastructure bank in Leeds.

Bdaily heard from business leaders in Yorkshire and the Humber about their thoughts on the announcement and what it could mean for regional industry.

Claire Petricca-Riding, head of planning and environment at Irwin Mitchell

“It is good to see the Chancellor has used this Budget to pursue the Government’s commitment to the “green agenda” and its 10 point environmental plan.

“The Green Industrial Revolution continues to occupy the Government’s mind – Green Growth with Green Jobs.

“The new green savings account with a green gilt which will fund renewable energy and clean transportation projects could certainly be a game changer. This could lead to much more support for renewable energy, including onshore wind and hydrogen generators and lead to cleaner transport, more electrical cars and cycling.

“Along with the Sovereign Green Bond and the new infrastructure bank based in Leeds as well as the desire to be an economic and scientific super power – it has been a budget set for the COP26 and leading that charge to net zero.

“We’ve also got Freeports, simplified planning zones and green initiatives associated with those areas as well as a new carbon offset market. It remains to be seen what the details of these schemes are.

“If I’m cynical I could say that some of these ideas are really igniting thoughts the Government had a while back under previous administrations and it’s a shame it’s taken so long to get them off the ground. We could be in a very different place if such initiatives had been followed through several years ago.

“That said, it’s important we look forward and overall the Chancellor’s measures concerning the environment are certainly a large green step in the right direction.”

David Brennan, CEO of Nexus Vehicle Rental

“After more than a year of uncertainty surrounding Brexit and Covid-19, we can now see some light at the end of the tunnel with the success of the vaccine rollout and the government’s ‘road map’ out of lockdown, however, we can now look ahead with optimism.

“The chancellor’s assertion that for businesses, certainty matters, cannot be understated.

“After a turbulent year, today’s Budget announcement highlights the need for businesses to remain flexible, agile, and adaptable, and we welcome the much-anticipated extension of the furlough scheme to support individuals and businesses as the country gets back on its feet.

“Businesses have been reliant on the furlough scheme, business rates relief and deferred VAT payments and despite lockdown restrictions easing in the coming months, continued financial support from the government remains vital to the survival of many firms in the vehicle rental sector.

“It was inevitable that the country would have to repay debts racked up throughout the pandemic, with a rise in corporation tax by even just 1 per cent would contributing an extra £3bn to this, helping the UK push its way into recovery, so we should be reassured that the increase from 19 per cent to 25 per cent is in the best interests of the country.

“Given this will not come into effect until 2023 and operate on a sliding scale for firms, it’s encouraging that the chancellor recognises now is not the time to raise taxes for business, many of whom are struggling with restrictions and need time to get back on their feet.

“It’s promising to see the Chancellor’s commitment to helping the regions level up and grow post-pandemic and post-Brexit, particularly the North, with the location of Treasury North revealed as Darlington, and that the Humber and Teesside are amongst the first wave of freeport locations.

“These locations will be key to boosting trade, jobs, investment, and confidence across the UK.

A renewed commitment to green growth is reassuring, and given our headquarters in Leeds, it’s especially gratifying to hear that the first ever UK infrastructure bank will be located in in the city and focused on investing in the green industrial revolution from the Spring.

“The continued freeze on fuel duty for the eleventh consecutive year should prove a relief to many as well. The government’s continued support of the transport and logistics sector, which is critical to the UK economy, is extremely welcome.

“However, whilst the government is also clearly sign-posting fleets towards a greener future in light of the looming petrol and diesel ban in 2030, it must further support the production of EVs to increase affordability, as well as put the appropriate infrastructure in place, to enable more businesses to see how this transition could be a realistic solution.

“It remains to be seen how the opportunities presented by freeports and tax freezes will translate into the fleet sector but the level of additional investment and tax breaks the government has committed to today is promising.

“Following today’s announcement, we need to now see a clear timing plan for the projects that the government intends to refocus on to boost the economy to reassure businesses and enable them to drive forward with confidence.”

Kevin Stevens, director of E5 Living UK

“There’s no doubt that this will bring new confidence to the market, particularly amongst first time buyers.

“A return to 5 per cent deposits will open up home ownership to a whole generation who would have otherwise been unable to get on the housing ladder.

“The Chancellor has recognised that people may be feeling cautious and whilst the stamp duty holiday and tapered reintroduction will have an immediate positive effect, the need for a lower deposit will provide a stronger foundation for a more sustained improvement in the housing market.”

Keith Hardman, international partner and head of development & strategic advisory at Cushman & Wakefield

“Today’s Budget announcement that the UK Infrastructure Bank is to be located in Leeds is welcome news for the city.

“It builds on Leeds reputation as a financial centre of excellence – the city is home to a substantial cluster of banking - with 30 national and international banks, accountancy with 150 firms including the Big Four, and a growing insurance sector. The city exports £2bn in financial services.

“The location of the UK Infrastructure Bank is a further boost to Leeds aim to develop as a leading location for fintech and insuretech - the city is home to the UK’s first fintech accelerator outside of London. The UK Infrastructure Bank is also clear evidence of investment in the levelling up agenda.

“The first round of the UK-wide Levelling Up Fund will focus on three themes: smaller transport projects that make a genuine difference to local areas; town centre and high street regeneration; and support for maintaining and expanding the UK’s world-leading portfolio of cultural and heritage assets

“It’s particularly noteworthy that emphasis is being placed on projects with delivery time frames in short to medium term - in the first round of funding priority projects are those able to demonstrate investment or starts on site by 31 March 2022.

“Although there will be subsequent bidding rounds, Treasury expect all funding to be spent by 31 March 2024, and by exception into 2024-25 for larger schemes.”

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region

“This Budget was a political ploy, not a plan for people and places across South Yorkshire and the North who need support to be levelled up after the pandemic.

“It was a Budget driven from Westminster, by naked political ambition and funded by half-measures.

“I’m pleased the Chancellor has listened to calls for ongoing support during COVID restrictions, but six-month extensions for low-income families, self-employed workers and business only mean an anxious wait until the autumn – while millions will still miss out in the meantime.

“A cursory glance the Government’s criteria for the Levelling Up Fund is symbolic of their divide and rule approach.

“The Chancellor has identified his own Richmond seat as ‘category one’ and relocated his Treasury office to a neighbouring constituency, but has labelled places like Barnsley and Sheffield as ‘category two’ – pushing them to the back of the queue for economic support.

“Ministers must change their approach, or they will put the country on course for a deeply divided recovery.”

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