Reaction to Chancellor’s Spring Statement from GSBLEP Interim Chair, Anita Bhalla

Reaction to Chancellor’s Spring Statement from GSBLEP Interim Chair, Anita Bhalla

23 Mar 2022

The Chancellor’s Spring Statement has outlined a range of initiatives designed to support families, communities and businesses to ride out the current economic turbulence and ease the rising cost of living. GBSLEP notes these measures are designed to support local businesses as they work to recover and grow in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the onset of global political challenges.

Soaring fuel costs are impacting many of our businesses and the cut to fuel duty of 5p a litre will undoubtedly be welcomed by many. However, GBSLEP recognises that rising energy prices will also affect production and running costs. This is why our Sustainability Hub’s Clean Growth Programme and Energy Saving and Business Efficiency Grant is looking to help SMEs identify how they can save money. Our work will complement the business rates relief on a range of green technology used to decarbonise buildings. As a business led organisation, we will use our agility and flexibility to respond to the needs of our businesses in the coming months as we shape our policy and delivery work.

Even in the face of adversity, SMEs show great resilience – something we have witnessed over the last 2 years. They continue to innovate and employ people. We therefore welcome the announcement that the Employment Allowance threshold will increase from £4,000 to £5,000 and make it easier for our smaller businesses to reduce National Insurance Contributions although many will still face the impending impact of an increase.

The commitment to improve R&D relief will also have an impact in our region. As a LEP we have invested in hundreds of businesses from data driven medtech and life sciences to our work through industry led SuperTech WM to encourage innovative research and development. Any tax relief on R&D projects will support these businesses to continue their cutting-edge work.

We welcome the reassessment of the Apprenticeship Levy to ensure it is fit for purpose. Here at GBSLEP we have worked with Birmingham City Council to ensure its levy transfer is supporting SMEs across the city to recruit and retain apprentices. The Levy has already supported thousands of people into the workplace locally. This work has been delivered through our Skills and Apprenticeship Hub – a forward-facing service which works directly with businesses to identify skills needs and ensures the right training is being provided to match market demand.

Whilst we note the change in growth forecast for the economy, there is much to be optimistic about. Here in the city-region we have some great opportunities with HS2 and this year’s Commonwealth Games. We are doing all we can to help stimulate our local businesses and economy and we remain committed to being agile and flexible in the face of changing political, social and economic circumstances. Our work is underpinned by local knowledge we gather through our unique structure of bringing together business leaders, local authorities and academics. Our excellent Growth Hub is on hand to deliver help and is key to ensuring our SMEs have access to support and guidance to enable their success.

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