March 17, 2016 @ 10:26 by Alison Cowie
Jonathan Walker, head of policy and campaigns, reflects on announcements made yesterday on tax, education and skills, and transport and infrastructure
Jonathan Walker, North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), head of Policy and campaigns said: “We are pleased our lobbying has help secure a firm commitment to upgrade both the A66 and A69 which are vital links for businesses in the region. This was a key priority in our 2016 Manifesto and will help to build a more connected North East.
“However we are disappointed the Chancellor has not heeded our calls for further detail on big reforms such as the apprenticeship levy. The Government has said it is committed to stability yet doesn’t provide businesses with sufficient detail to plan for the future.
“There were some other positive announcements yesterday. Cuts in business taxation are always welcome. In particular, removing many small businesses from paying rates will be a boost for a crucial part of our economy. Despite this, we will continue to seek assurances from the Chancellor that the North East will not suffer as a result of business rate localization.
“The lack of an announcement on Air Passenger Duty (APD) is hugely disappointing. Following recent statements from the Scottish Government, we will continue to challenge the Chancellor to implement an APD system that encourages, rather than hinders, regional economic growth.
“NECC has long campaigned for an overhaul of business rates and contributed to the review of the system in conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce. The doubling of Small Business Rate Relief will act as a catalyst for small businesses in the region. We’d hope that digitising business tax account will also lead to less bureaucracy.
“The further reductions in Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax should provide more encouragement for entrepreneurs and investors, while the abolition of Class 2 and reform of Class 4 NICs will help support the often overlooked self-employed sector in the North East.
“We also welcome the ongoing fuel duty freeze as it continues to be good news for the region’s highly successful haulage and logistics sector.
Education and skills:
“NECC members are keen for the Government to provide more clarity on the Apprenticeship Levy, and particularly the support that will be available for smaller businesses and the construction sector. The Chancellor has not provided this, and we hope that more detail will be forthcoming in the very near future.
“We welcome the announcement of additional support for adult learning. Enabling older workers to retrain and upskill will help to reduce the skills shortages reported by our members, and create a more flexible and future-ready workforce. Additional funding for mentoring is also welcome, as employers recognised this can help to prepare young people for work in our 2015 Business & Education Survey.”
Transport and infrastructure
“The upgrading of the A66 and A69 is hugely significant. We accept that there will be a process to go through before we see spades in the ground, but we will be calling on the Government to expedite this as much as possible.
“The further commitment to the National Institute for Smart Data Innovation in Newcastle, contained in the North East Combined Authority Devolution deal is also welcome. This centre will help support a growing, innovative sector in the region.”