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The region's firms have their say
Richard Bell

Autumn Budget 2018: Reactions from across Yorkshire

The Government’s latest Budget plans are in. Speaking before Parliament yesterday afternoon, Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed plans for tax and spending in what will be the UK’s first fiscal year outside the European Union.

Yorkshire businesses have stepped in to offer their take on the announcements. Here’s what they had to say:

Oliver Shaw, CEO of Cascade HR

“As the CEO of a technology business, I must admit mixed opinions surrounding the digital services tax which looks set to be introduced in 2020.

“Of course, I’m all for organisations paying their way, but corporation tax is only one part of the contribution that a brand like Amazon makes to the economy. This disruptive ecommerce giant has brought a marketplace to small businesses that previously didn’t exist and opened up a wealth of opportunity as a result.

“We ought to be careful not to penalise them for that. Yes, their methodologies have shifted the world of retail as we know it, and they don’t necessarily get it right all of the time. But they are striving to deliver a consistent – and convenient – customer experience, which should be praised.

“The high street is struggling which is something nobody wants to see, and cuts to business rates for small retailers should help. But a mindset shift is also required amongst a number of retail brands – they must create a compelling reason for customers to visit.

“We only need to look at the successful efforts of flagship stores who focus on delivering experiential environments, to see that a desire to visit the high street still exists, if the proposition fulfils shoppers’ requirements.”

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East

“Last week, I highlighted the need for the Chancellor to recognise the desperate situation relating to adult social care – the residential and community care of elderly citizens and adults with significant physical and mental disabilities.

“A few weeks ago, he produced an ill-fitting sticking plaster of £240m, which didn’t even cover the expanding gash in service provision.

“Today’s announcement of £650m of grant funding for English councils for 2019-20 and an additional £45m for the disabled facilities grant in England in 2018-19 is little more than window-dressing.

“This is no more than window-dressing. It means that the number of people needing care, but not getting it, will continue to rise. More than half a million fewer people are now getting assistance than in 2010.

“And, yet again, the publication of the long-awaited Social Care Green Paper, which has to address the long-term funding of adult social care, has been delayed… this time until ‘before the end of the year’.”

Mike Cartwright, West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce

“We know that a significant period of change lies ahead; that’s why the Chamber network this year, in its Budget submission, called for radical measures to enable business to meet the upcoming challenges facing the UK economy. Measures to boost investment, competitiveness and productivity are needed to embolden the UK economy ahead of and throughout the upcoming period surrounding Brexit.

“We welcome measures such as increasing the annual investment allowance, the package to stimulate high streets, including business rate relief, and encouraging SMEs to take on apprentices. Conversely, economic growth forecasts remain disturbingly weak, so this is a concern. It can also be argued that the statement lacked the bigger picture measures needed to drive the economy through Brexit, but some would say that’s an unreasonable criticism given the constraints in this area.

“Given our recent reports on local housing needs and employment land, we welcome the additional money for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, aswell as extending the cancellation of stamp duty for first-time buyers. On the downside, increasing the National Minimum Wage by almost 5% puts pressure on many employers because of the need to maintain differentials within the workforce. This is at a time when competition, price pressures and general constraints within the business community are quite testing.

“One policy decision we are still awaiting is on devolution. There is reference in the red book to extending the Transforming Cities Fund but, until our region gets progress on a devolution settlement, we remain disadvantaged. The Government needs to give our region the policy-making tools and powers it needs to fully contribute to the economy and decision-making. We therefore look forward to a renewed Northern Powerhouse strategy next year.

“We will scrutinise the red book further to give a more detailed assessment to our members and the likely impact on the business community and economic growth prospects.”

Penny Marshall, regional director of Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Yorkshire and Humber

“I am pleased that the Chancellor has addressed some of the infrastructure issues that are key to keeping the country moving.

“Robust and reliable road infrastructure is essential for business. Delays cost time and money and we must get the basics, like the repair of potholes, right so the funding for this is to be welcomed.

“We’re aware of the areas requiring improvement in Yorkshire, and we look forward to significant improvement to our highways network from the £25.5bn road upgrade fund in due course.”

Rosemary Anderson, partner at Clive Owen LLP

“This came across as a fair Budget continuing the theme of closing loopholes that are open to abuse. It’s welcome news that the entrepreneurs’ relief is currently staying; the expansion of the qualification period to two years shows a commitment to preventing potential abuse while supporting genuine entrepreneurs.

“The Chancellor responded to people’s concerns with the introduction of the UK services digital tax, aimed at the largest tech companies and the IR35 restrictions being expanded into the private sector.

“The Annual Investment Allowance increase will stimulate business capital investment and is to be welcomed as is the very positive personal tax announcements, which will put more money in the pockets of many people and stimulate spending and the wider economy.”

Pennie Hudson Ward, chief executive of ArchformByte

“I am thrilled to see that the Chancellor made a focus on technology in his budget. The plans to invest hundreds of millions of pounds, into installing superfast broadband in remote areas, is welcome news.

“However, I think that in addition to the rural areas that the Chancellor hopes to target, which will be hugely beneficial to the farming industry, it is important that all areas North of London have access to ultrafast broadband in the coming years.

“There are non-rural areas which still not have access to basic broadband technology but fibre technologies, with superfast internet connections, need to be readily available to everyone if we are to thrive in future.”

Kelly Green, regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking

“Many firms in the region will see the Chancellor’s announcements of £37 million of additional development funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail, and £420 million for road improvement, as a definite step in the right direction. Research we conducted in the run-up to the Budget showed that a fifth of Yorkshire businesses wanted increased transport investment to feature in today’s speech.

“Freezing or lowering business rates came in at the top of more than a quarter of Yorkshire firms’ Budget wish list in the poll. As such, the Chancellor announcing that business rates are set to be cut by a third will be well received by the retailers set to benefit, who can now begin planning how to use the capital retained to fuel growth.

“The Chancellor also announced that he will increase the Annual Investment Allowance from £200,000 to £1 million for two years from 2019, in a move designed to stimulate business investment.

“The allowance – which enables SMEs to claim tax relief on investments in business equipment – was mentioned as the top priority by 11 per cent of firms in Yorkshire in our pre-Budget survey. This could prove to be a significant windfall for small businesses locally, supporting their growth and helping boost productivity.”

Keith Hardman, head of the Leeds office at Cushman & Wakefield

“I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement on Business Rates Relief and the Future High Streets Fund, but more is needed to address the challenges facing town and city centre stakeholders.

“Funding is a key issue but measures to expedite change and address what, in many cases, amounts to market failure are at least as important.

“Changes are necessary to provide public and private sector partners with greater agility and ability to allow town and city centres to “right size” and “right mix” the retail offer, introduce other uses, create open space, infrastructure and access improvements all of which are vital in building sustainable, fit for purpose, town centre communities.”

Cllr Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council

“North Yorkshire looks forward to its share of these much-needed sums for fixing our local roads and transport infrastructure and especially for adult social care.

“These one-off payments do not address the fact that for a county like North Yorkshire, the largest geographically, an increase in long-term funding for essential services is the only way to create sustainability. We will also need to see the detail of how these additional monies can be spent.

“Government is a partnership between central and local government and I am pleased the Government has listened to our concerns, voiced directly through our MPs and through our networks like the County Council Network.”

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group

“I strongly support the Chancellor’s decision to strengthen the total carbon price until at least 2021 - it provides investors with certainty and is a critical factor in ensuring an end to the use of coal in the power system, helping us to further decarbonise cost-effectively and cementing the UK’s leading role in tackling climate change.

“We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that the carbon price must remain high enough to keep coal off the UK system beyond 2021 the carbon price should be set at the right level to prevent a resurgence in coal generation before 2025.”

Suzanne Robinson, Yorkshire managing partner at EY

“As the Chancellor earmarked more funding for the Transforming Cities Fund, I cannot help feeling that once again Yorkshire is being penalised for not having got its house in order with regards to devolution.

“Our Northern neighbours in Manchester, Liverpool and Tees Valley all collectively stand to benefit from that – to the tune of £124.5m between them. Once again, our Yorkshire cities are left in competition with other English cities for the remainder of the cash.

“Devo aside, there was good news for the collective North. Firstly that the Government plans to publish what it calls a “refreshed” Northern Powerhouse Strategy next year demonstrates renewed commitment to the importance of improving productivity across the region.

“However most crucially, Northern Powerhouse Rail gets a special mention with direct recognition of how it will transform the economic geography of the North and a pledge of a further £37m to support its development.

“But growth and prosperity come not just from major infrastructure and connecting towns to city centres but also by creating sustainable eco systems within our regions towns as well.

“It’s an issue that Hammond is clearly also grappling with when it comes to the question of what should be done with our High Streets – many regional towns have seen the make-up of their high streets change so much that there is clearly no going back and that is having considerable impact of local communities and economies.

“In recognition, Hammond is looking to cut business rate bills by one-third for retail properties with a rateable value below £51,000, but also free up local councils’ ability to repurpose properties to residential, establishing what he calls a new mixed‑use business model on the high street.

“Overall, some good reinforcements in commitment to supporting the North – the key now is to get on and make it happen.”

Rafia Ahmad, senior solicitor at ESP Law

‘The end of austerity’ quite rightly stole the headlines following the Chancellor’s budget delivery, with a pleasing 3.3m more people now in work, compared to 2010.

“But delve a little deeper into some of the key points and will every industry sector feel equally as buoyant moving forward? The abolishment of future PFI contracts is likely to hit the already-strained construction industry hard, and less work means the possibility of more redundancies, which is contrary to promises of a growing economy.

“That said, a pledge to contribute an additional £500m to the Housing Infrastructure Fund, to build up to 650,000 new homes, could plug gaps.”

David Brennan, CEO of Nexus Vehicle Rental

“Earlier this year we reported a significant increase in the number of pothole related incidents from our customers, so the additional £420m that has been ringfenced to immediately start tackling this growing problem is very welcome news.

“With this commitment from the Chancellor, it is hoped that damage to vehicles and subsequent disruption to journeys will reduce, allowing us to offer a seamless mobility service and help keep business moving across the UK.

“If the number of pothole related incidents were to perpetuate at the current rate, we would expect to process double the number of damage claims as last year - an unacceptable situation. This commitment today therefore represents a good result for our customers, suppliers and insurers, along with the wider community of motorists.”

How will the changes announced in the Budget affect your business? Let us know in the comments.

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