Mixed view of announcements
When a Chancellor delivering a budget has to resort to toilet puns then you know things have gone too far. In fairness, I can imagine with the state of the Brexit negotiations, they have to take their laughs where they can in the Treasury now but a whole one and a half minutes on toilets following an announcement regarding business rate relief on public lavatories was taking the…..well anyway.
At the Chamber the Policy team pour over the budget, frankly so our members don’t have to which means we have to sit through the jokes and the heckling with the Deputy Speaker trying to keep order and the Chancellor trying to make dry economic statistics sound like they are doing a fabulous job.
It was supposed to be a budget where austerity ended, and business got boost but what did we glean. Well, not much actually, when we remember the woolly mammoth in the room that is Brexit, the Chancellor couldn’t really do much more that shuffle around the edges.
So first the good, the increase in investment allowances was very welcome and should help companies bring forward plans to purchase new capital equipment. The extra relief on business rates will prove popular but maybe only put many businesses back in the position they were a year ago before revaluation. The Chamber has called for a full review of the business rates system and this was just short-term tinkering. We also welcome the reduction in employer contribution for apprenticeships which should create more opportunities for young people.
Then there were the bits which sound good on the face of it but we will have to see the detail. A £650m fund for high streets is welcome in that it recognises there is a problem, but we want to see an equitable distribution of that money rather than a beauty contest involving bidding.
The measures on single use plastics could be a double-edged sword for Teesside, we have a number of plants here producing those plastics, but we also have a growing circular and recycling economy looking to utilise waste plastic.
We also welcome the announcement of some funds for projects on the former SSI site.
So, whilst the budget sounded a lot and the Chancellor was on his feet longer than most (must have been the comedy routine) there wasn’t a huge amount that changed. Is there the sense things are being held back until march? – very likely.