Matthew Neville

Spring Statement 2022: The North East’s response

Following the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP’s address to parliament this afternoon, many North East businesses and organisations have chimed in to voice both their criticisms and compliments with the initiatives being put into action.

In particular, Arlen Pettitt, North East England Chamber of Commerce knowledge development manager commented: ““This Spring Statement was not on a significant enough scale to make a difference to many businesses, or our region as a whole, at present.”

“However, we do acknowledge the chancellor’s recognition of the enormous pressures on the economy and household spending at present. Unfortunately, recognition is not enough. There needed to be more to tackle the huge pressures created by the cost of doing business at present.

“We believe an initiative such as a temporary energy price cap for small businesses would have been extremely helpful, as would a reduction in NI in line with that announced for individuals.

“There were some positives. Our haulage sector will be pleased to have the fuel duty cut but many companies are still disadvantaged by the removal of red diesel as a low price option. It is also good that the Chancellor is looking at tax breaks for training and changes to the apprenticeship levy.

“In summary this Spring Statement tinkered around the edges of some substantial challenges facing businesses.”

Adding to the discussion, Emma Jones, CBE, founder and CEO of small business network and business support provider Enterprise Nation, said: “We wanted a confidence boost for small business today but what we got was confirmation of existing schemes and reliefs.

“The employment allowance will be welcome but today’s Statement was more about politics than enterprise. There may be a tax plan but that’s not enough to energise the small business base on which we so much rely to power the economy and local communities.

“There is an urgent need for small businesses and the groups that represent them to be part of the Summer consultation as small businesses from the Enterprise Nation member community made their voices heard in a live blog today with words including ‘underwhelming’ and ‘disappointing’ summing up the mood.”

In contrast, Nigel Emmerson, housing specialist and partner at Womble Bond Dickinson, had more positive things to say about the announcement. He added: “The government’s decision to double the Household Support Fund to £1bn is a good one, and will have a meaningful impact on the UK’s most vulnerable families.

“While it remains to be seen how each Local Authority will allocate this funding, overall it is a positive step. The VAT cut to energy saving materials is good for the construction industry, which has been at the mercy of a range of factors in recent years. The move has the potential to give the sector the much-needed support it needs to recover from the effects of the pandemic and Brexit, which in turn may alleviate the UK’s housing crisis.

“The VAT reduction is also positive for homeowners wanting to install energy saving products, and supports the UK’s move towards Net Zero. However, homeowners will still have to fund the upfront costs of these products, which at a time when the cost of living is at a record high is not ideal.”

Therefore, the Spring Statement garnered much in the way of criticism, but with flecks of positive change throughout. What remains now, is to see how such changes will play out on the grander economic scale of the UK, and whether or not the North East will see benefit.

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