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Business leaders comment on the Chancellor’s Spring Statement

In what is shaping up to be a very busy week in the House of Commons, Philip Hammond delivered his Spring Statement today (March 13).

The Chancellor used the opportunity restate the need for parliament to reach a consensus on our future relationship with the European Union as well as updating the House as to the state of the UK economy.

Sandra Thompson, Newcastle managing partner for EY, commented: “Even in his final social media tweet before delivering the Spring Statement, the Chancellor reminded us that this would not be a major fiscal event – and it certainly wasn’t.

“It was, in fact, more a plea from Government to parliament to reach consensus and to ensure that the UK does not leave Europe with no deal.

“Beginning, middle and end of his 30-minute speech, the Chancellor reminded us that all plans were ‘subject to a Brexit deal being agreed’.

“He even dangled the carrot of a ‘deal dividend’ to the UK economy – both fiscal and in terms of the impact of improved business confidence.

“It is certainly true that today’s Spring Statement will not be at the forefront of business’ minds as much as previous years and it is right that the focus is on ensuring the certainty and stability that businesses need to make investment decisions and to grow.

“One important announcement for business is the Government’s recognition of the impact that late payment can have on small businesses and that audit committees will be required to review payment practices and report on them in their annual accounts.

“He also announced a £260m borderlands growth deal to help deliver physical and digital infrastructure – a welcome boon for Cumbria and Carlisle in the North West and Northumberland in the North East – so despite other overarching pressures, the North was not entirely forgotten.”

Responding to the announcement aimed at addressing the late payments issue, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Mike Cherry also said: “At a time of great uncertainty, the Chancellor has shown today that there is still plenty of scope to support the UK’s small businesses.

“Poor payment practices by big businesses towards their smaller suppliers are rife and pernicious, leading to the closure of 50,000 small firms a year.

“Four out of five small businesses have been paid late, and we told the chancellor that today was the moment to act, to tackle this scourge once and for all.

“The commitment from the Chancellor that the business secretary will see this through is welcome, and we are especially pleased that the first measure has been announced – to make a non-executive director responsible for the supply chain through the audit committee of every large business, and to report back through the annual report on their progress.

“The end of late payments could finally be in sight. It can’t come soon enough, to bolster small businesses at a time when they are in great need of support and a lift in confidence.”