Following the unveiling of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget for the coming financial year, business and political leaders from across the North-west have reacted to its contents.
A summary of the 2021 Budget is available here.
Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Advisor, Sacha Lord, has welcomed many of the extensions of coronavirus support measures. He commented on Twitter:
Overall, I’m pleased today. Recovery will be slow and steady so the furlough extension is a welcome move and will save thousands of jobs. Business rate and hospitality VAT measures will also be a lifeline too many. Operators will be waking up tomorrow with renewed hope.
“[Andy Burnham] and I have continually called for support for the 3 million freelancers who have been excluded from any financial aid – many of these work within the night time economy. Today, over 600,000 have been helped. A good start, but clearly much much more to be done.”
However, he expressed disappointment that the Budget did not include protections for businesses and sectors that may be impacted by future Covid-19 outbreaks, adding:
We still don’t have a Government-backed COVID indemnity insurance policy for events. It’s critical and hundreds of events, including weddings are relying on this. I know Westminster and the Treasury are considering it, so I will continue to drive this through.”
Stephen Church, North-west Managing Partner at Big Four accounting firm EY, welcomed investments in the region, including in Cheadle. He said:
Everyone was expecting this Budget to be a biggie, and the Chancellor did not disappoint.
“Here in the North West we didn’t do too badly – the most significant announcement being that the Liverpool City Region will be home to one of eight Freeports across the country.
“This is a huge boon for the area, creating a regional hub for trade, innovation and commerce.
“It is important that our smaller towns are supported in the recovery if we are to ensure levelling up does not lead to a two tier North so it was heartening to see that Preston, Workington, Bolton, Cheadle, Carlisle, Leyland, Southport, Staveley and Rochdale will receive £211m from the Towns Fund.
“It won’t solve all their problems but it is a recognition of work to be done across the country’s towns.”
Transport for the North Chief Executive Barry White also remarked on the Budget’s support for the region; he said:
As we look towards longer-term recovery and growth, bringing the Treasury to Darlington and setting up the UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds are very welcome measures that could unlock funding for the North’s aging infrastructure and, crucially, lead to funding decisions that address the historic imbalances in the UK.
“Channelling funds at pace into essential capital projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail must now be a priority for these new ventures, helping to kick-start recovery and deliver a low-carbon North.
“We now await more detail and long-term commitment to the North’s preferred rail network in the Integrated Rail Plan.”
Chris Fletcher, Policy and Communications Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, however, described some of the levelling up programmes for the North as ‘lacklustre.’ He also derided the rise in Corporation Tax for further complicating UK tax rules. However, Chris Fletcher welcomed tax breaks for businesses investing in equipment; he added:
The big announcement around a new ‘Super-Deduction’ model aimed at boosting investment in new equipment was a real bonus and could unlock cash reserves but, overall, there felt little progress on investment plans for the economy – levelling up – beyond what we have heard over the last few years.
“Whilst Covid has obviously intervened dramatically, the solutions and proposals on offer for future prosperity, a zero-carbon environment and radical investment felt a bit flat.”
Stockport-based power grid operator, Electricity North West also welcomed the so-called ‘Super-Deductions’ for the role they could play in supporting businesses to meet environmental goals, although suggested more could have been offered in this regard. CEO Peter Emery commented:
A city the size of Manchester, for example, could transform itself into the equivalent of a sizeable power station if enough businesses installed just one 5kW solar panel on their roofs and sites. The Chancellor’s Superdeductor will help this, but making changes to business rates could do even more, by encouraging more business owners to invest in significant solar arrays without increasing the amount they pay in taxes.”
Stockport-based accountancy firm, HURST, welcomed measures that would ease the reopening of many sectors of the economy. Tax Partner Adrian Young commented:
The new Restart Grants Scheme and Recovery Loan Scheme, combined with the continuing business rate freeze, should help ease businesses back into the saddle once restrictions lift, and the well-publicised six-month extensions to the furlough and self-employed schemes will help further.”
However, he was cautious of other measures announced such as the minimum wage rise, that although welcomed, “employers will want to consider the cost impact of this measure carefully.”