The Spring Budget: Bristol business reaction

March 15, 2023

Business West, the organisation behind Bristol Chamber of Commerce, welcomed what it called the return of a Budget that addressed immediate threats while including measures aimed at future prosperity.

But it said the government must commit to providing the stability and confidence needed by businesses to invest and grow the UK economy.

Managing director Phil Smith, pictured, said the Chancellor had acted to address the ongoing tightness in the labour market and also announcing measures to encourage business investment. 

And while there was no direct mention of the West of England in the Budget speech, a number of measures around devolution and help for the tech sector should benefit the region.

“The announcement of an expansion of the available free childcare for parents of one and two-year-olds in England was welcome, as was the set of other incentives for people with long-term sickness, disabled people, and the over 50s,” he said.

“Considering taxes and spending that directly affects businesses, the planned increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25% in April remains in place, but a new regime of capital allowances and other reforms will be introduced to harness investment. This is step in the right direction.”

Although he welcomed the three-months extension of the Energy Price Guarantee for households’ energy bills, he was disappointed that the scaling back of support for businesses previously announced this year remained in place with no mention of potential changes.

“As part of the government levelling up agenda, the Chancellor announced the introduction of 12 investment zones, plans for the development of local infrastructure and further devolution deals for local governments and mayoral combined authorities,” he said.

“Regrettably, there was no specific mention of our region in plans for targeted boosts to local growth. 

“However, the incentives announced for innovation, cyber, and nuclear energy could be beneficial for thriving regional industries in those sectors.

“Overall, the return of a Budget that not only addresses immediate threats and includes measures aiming at future prosperity is a positive, but the government must commit to providing the stability and confidence needed by businesses to invest and grow the UK economy.” 

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in the region said many smaller firms would feel they had been overlooked again.

FSB development manager for Gloucestershire and the West of England, Sam Holliday, pictured, said: “We had hoped, for example, to hear that there would be new support announced for when the current business energy help scheme comes to an end this month and we were also hoping to see business rates reduced for many more SMEs. Neither of these were even mentioned sadly.”

He said there were some pluses on issues such as childcare, fuel duty and R&D tax incentives.

“But perhaps best of all was the news that inflation could be less than 3% by the end of the year and we may no longer be facing a recession.

“This will be reassuring for businesses trying to plan ahead at a time when small business confidence in this region is at an all-time low.”




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