With a month to go until the Chancellor delivers the Budget on 3 March the North East England Chamber of Commerce has laid bare the challenges regional businesses face and what is needed to support them.
In its Budget submission the Chamber highlighted the fact that the region has been under some of the most stringent and long-lasting Covid-related restrictions in the UK which had put huge strain on consumer facing sectors such as aviation, retail, leisure and hospitality. It set out the expectation the Chancellor would maintain vital Covid support measures and also highlights a series of urgent issues that require investment including transport and broadband infrastructure.
Jonathan Walker, Chamber director of policy said: “Prior to the pandemic, the economic, wealth and wellbeing gaps between the North East and other parts of the country were unacceptable. Covid-19 has only worsened this situation, with the Government’s stated goal of ‘levelling up’ regions such as ours never seeming so important and urgent.”
“This Budget must contain measures that will prevent unnecessary business failures and protect jobs until a recovery can be sustained. We need to see significant extension of the Job Retention Scheme, with a tapered reduction of support as restrictions are lifted, an extension of business rates support and continued backing of Coronavirus loan schemes.
The Chamber letter said there should be rapid deployment of localised funding through councils for areas that remain in the highest Covid-related Tiers. It also called for a full review of the range of Government support to ensure it no longer excludes large numbers of small businesses.
Further demands include Government specifically mandating all departments and arm’s-length bodies to place rebalancing at the heart of their spending decisions.
The Chamber also stressed the importance of continuing talks with North East authorities about further devolution and the relocation of senior civil service roles to the region.
The regeneration of the region’s housing stock and refocussing of town centres are also Chamber priorities to support the North East’s position as a vibrant place to live and work.
The Chamber was established to support members’ international trade and the submission sets out urgent measures needed to ensure businesses are able to export to the EU easily and successfully following Brexit.
Jonathan Walker said: “Our mission is not just to repair the damage done to our economy in recent months. It is to come back stronger. We must correct historic unfairness, tackle inequalities and show the world our full capability. The right investment in our region by Government and businesses alike will deliver huge social and economic returns.”