BUSINESS leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire have described the Chancellor’s first budget in a majority government as bold and balanced.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce – which hosted a panel of companies from range of sectors at its headquarters, said as the first Conservative budget for more than 18 years, and in the context of the need to continue to cut the deficit, it was a bold statement from George Osborne.
She said: “It was a budget where had to balance politics with a need to continue the country’s economic recovery and to provide business with the stimulus it needs to invest and create jobs.
“We saw from our latest Quarterly Economic Survey that there has been a slight reluctance from firms to invest in machinery and training so it was pleasing to see the Chancellor tackle these head on by increasing the Annual Investment Allowance to £200,000 and also encouraging more apprenticeships.
“As ever, many of the announcements had already been leaked or, at least, rumoured before the Budget but the reduction in corporation tax, eventually to 18 per cent, was a step few had forecast but is a move that will be welcomed.
“It is a great advert to the rest of the world to invest in this country and to boost business here. As he said, Britain is open for business, which is a strong message.
“With our two great universities in mind, I was pleased to see that he sees university as a jewel in the crown for the economy and that he was mindful to ensure that they continue to get the necessary levels of funding to allow them to grow and prosper.
“Other measures too are welcome – the Roads Fund is something that will strike a chord with businesses and individuals, although how much will be spent, on which roads and when wasn’t 100 per cent clear. Will the additional tax on new cars to create the fund put people off buying one? Probably not, but I am sure there will be a degree of nervousness around that.
“The freezing of fuel duty is another welcome measure and is one that businesses and individuals will, again, benefit from.
“In terms of Coventry and Warwickshire in the wider context of devolution in England, the Midlands as the ‘engine room’ of growth was mentioned by George Osborne but again played second fiddle to the Northern Powerhouse.
“He also talked about ‘elected mayors’ once again and from our feedback from business, there isn’t the stomach for a mayor as part of the West Midlands Combined Authority. We will see how this plays out and, also, ensure the views of businesses on our patch are heard loud and clear as this process progresses.
“We once again held our budget panel at the Chamber to discuss the changes with businesses from a range of sectors and there was certainly a feeling, more than ever, that we won’t know the true nature of this statement until a few weeks down the line.
“There were changes announced around the taxation on dividends for business owners and, also, his final announcement around the living wage – that took most by surprise. These will both have an effect on our members and we will monitor the final detail closely to keep businesses informed on what they will mean to them.”