SUMMER BUDGET 2015: Business West reaction

July 8, 2015

Before the Budget Business West – the organisation that runs Bristol Chamber of Commerce – called for a focus on infrastructure, exports and the skills gap.

Managing director Phil Smith said: “Our nation’s roads and apprentices got a cordial mention [in the Budget], international trade was almost utterly absent.

“Also missing was a mention of the West when it came to the devolution stakes, showing that we need to raise our game.”

He said the positives included, among a “welcome focus on productivity”, with the promise of a new ‘roads fund’ for sustained investment to get Britain moving and tackle the poor state of its roads.

“Add to that a new apprenticeship levy to create an additional 3m apprenticeships and you see a Government firmly committed to improving skills levels,” he said.

“However, the lack of exporting initiatives was a major disappointment. A brief statement from the Chancellor that ‘we need to see investment at home matched by exports abroad’ wasn’t backed up by any detail of incentives to ensure we pull this off.

“While this Budget boosted business in other ways, such as the planned reduction in corporation tax and raising the annual investment allowance, exporters will be wondering where the Government support was today.

“With the UK battling a trade deficit and the Government still falling well short of its target of £1 trillion worth of exports by 2020, it was a missed opportunity to kick start this drive.”

He said the Chancellor’s boldest measure was saved till last with his announcement that ‘Britain will be getting a pay rise’ with a new compulsory National Living Wage starting at £7.20 next year and a target for this to rise to £9 per hour by 2020, with the Low Pay Commission recommending future rises.

“Many businesses in the South West, including ourselves, already pay the living wage and are proud to pay their employees a good salary,” he said.

“They already know that retaining and recruiting talent means being fair on pay. Nonetheless, it is important that the underlying health of the economy supports higher pay, otherwise there is a danger that it will impede future jobs creation.

“We are pleased that future pay rises will be based on an independent assessment of the state of the economy and the labour market and that initial analysis has shown that negative impact will be minimal. Safeguards are made for smaller firms, exempting them from National Insurance payments if they employ four or less and pay the living wage.

“The move to exclude employees aged under 25 will also mean it doesn’t stop firms hiring young people, an important safeguard when youth unemployment is still high.”


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