Budget Boosts Jobs But Economic Challenge Remains

Business leaders in Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes say there were few ‘crumbs of comfort’ for firms across the region in the Chancellor’s Budget.


Jeremy Hunt MP, the Chancellor, enhanced support for childcare to encourage more people back to work, froze duty on alcohol & fuel and also reduced employee National Insurance by two per cent which had been widely forecast. 


Sean Rose Head of Policy at the Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce said; “There was not a lot in the budget for business. Firms across the region will be thinking that there could have been more. The cut in National Insurance will provide a boost to staff who are still feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis but that wasn’t matched by the same kind of help for companies.”


He said: “There was very little for our manufacturers and construction businesses, who are still feeling the pinch from the rising costs that they faced over recent years. It was a similar story for hospitality.


“One of the most positive announcements for companies across the region wasn’t a policy change but the fact that inflation is expected to fall to less than two per cent in the next few months as this will, hopefully, have a stabilising effect on businesses and give them a platform from which to grow.


“As with every budget and fiscal event, it is often the case that we learn more when the detail emerges but I think it is fair to say that the initial reaction from businesses was fairly muted.


“The economy slipped into technical recession at the end of 2023 and, while that isn’t anticipated to last very long, more is going to be need to build sustainable economic growth.


Reacting to the Chancellor’s Budget, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said:  


“Following the Autumn Statement this Budget was always set to deliver less for business although changes to National Insurance will provide some momentum. 


“However, beyond this there were no major announcements to help shift the dial on conditions for business.  


“The clock is now ticking to the General Election – and this Budget could be the last fiscal event before voters go to the polls.  


“Business confidence is improving but the coming months will remain challenging for many companies. It is vital that the economy remains front and centre of the campaign to come.” 


On jobs, Shevaun said: 


“The prospect of an additional 200,000 entering into the workforce, due to cuts in National Insurance would make a significant dent in the job vacancies holding back our economy. It will also provide a welcome boost to economic growth. 


“Combined with the increased child benefit threshold, this should help business find the staff they so desperately need.”


On the VAT threshold change, she added: 


“Increasing the VAT threshold to £90,000 from April will help SMEs in our Chamber network to grow and invest but a more fundamental review is required. We will continue to engage with Government to push for this.”


Responding to news of new funding to train planners, Shevaun, said: 


“We are pleased the Chancellor has joined forces with the BCC and our founding partner Aviva, by committing £3m of matched funding to our business-led programme to unlock the planning system. This is a clear signal from Government about working in partnership with business to solve problems. We now have a real opportunity to make the system quicker and more efficient for everyone. It is all about investing in talent and building communities.”


On the new Growth Guarantee Scheme she said: 


“It’s also good news that the Chancellor has listened to our calls for the Recovery Loan Scheme to be extended. Under its new name, the Growth Guarantee Scheme will continue to be a financial lifeline for thousands of businesses to get back on track after recent economic shocks and plan for future growth.”


On tax free shopping she added: 


“There will be huge disappointment that a new internationally competitive tax-free shopping scheme was not mentioned by the Chancellor. We will review the OBR’s evidence and continue to make the case for this.”