Plea to new Chancellor from the CBI: Use your first Budget to ‘power-up’ the South West

February 14, 2020

The CBI has urged the Chancellor to take bold action on skills, innovation and infrastructure in his Budget to ‘power-up’ the South West’s economy.

The seven-point plea was made before Sajid Javid resigned as Chancellor and was replaced by Rishi Sunak – throwing into doubt whether the Budget will go ahead, as planned, on March 11. 

In its Budget submission, the South West CBI said taking action now in the region could kick-start a new decade of growth and investment, particularly through much-needed investment in critical infrastructure projects.

The start of 2020 had seen a welcome lift in business confidence, the CBI said, and the historic, first Budget of a new decade offered the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment.

Private sector investment has fallen over the past couple of years and the Budget offered the opportunity to reverse this decline through pro-enterprise economic policies for the region.

This investment would lift productivity – which has critically been a brake on economic growth for years – and help build the South West into a global innovation leader.

The CBI said business strongly welcomed the government’s vision to ‘level up’ communities and lead the way in the net-zero transition and was committed to playing its full part.

The CBI’s key demands for the South West include:

1.    A comprehensive review of the business rates system, which puts many parts of the UK economy at a competitive disadvantage. This should reduce the bill on individual businesses. That review should be completed by year end to incentivise investment by firms across the UK.

2.   Further devolution of powers to the region and a new framework setting out clear guidelines to support the development of new deals and establish criteria for assessing deal proposals.

3.    A commitment to delivering rail improvements across the South West as a first step in the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, unlocking capacity and transport connections. As part of the upcoming Aviation Strategy, the government should recognise the key role that Bristol Airport plays in regional and national connectivity.

4.    Innovation investment that will drive good jobs and global strength by establishing a network of high-end research hubs throughout the region to build on local strengths, develop low carbon zones and support innovation clusters

5.    Subsidising the provision of rapid charge points in rural and remote areas by 2022 where the market will not deliver in the short term, to ensure complete coverage throughout the UK using the £1bn commitment to completing a fast-charging network, as set out in the Conservative manifesto.

6. Duelling the A303 as a major government priority as part of a wider commitment to delivering infrastructure improvements in the South West.

7. Funding should be provided to regional groups to help bring the region together and promote the South West internationally.

CBI South West regional director Deborah Fraser said: “At the start of this new decade, firms are feeling more optimistic and want to invest. The CBI is urging the government to power-up the South West at the upcoming Budget. Our Budget requests will create jobs, growth and investment throughout the South West.

“This historic Budget offers the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment across the UK. Backed by a pro-enterprise Budget for skills, infrastructure and innovation, business can help kickstart a new decade of UK growth and job creation.

“Trade policy will continue to matter, but with strong domestic policy, British firms are ready to invest and get our region into the fast lane of global economies.”




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