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Autumn Statement is business friendly but more needs to be done

There was an optimistic but caution approach from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Autumn Statement for 2013.

In delivering the government’s spending plans and outlining the state of the country’s economy, the Rt Hon George Osborne has shown signs that he has gone some way to addressing our members’ concerns.

Business rates cap

Firstly the 2% cap on business rates in England rather than having them linked to Retail Price Index inflation is a step in the right direction, but not enough to boost companies’ cash flow and investment.

“In my opinion, the Chancellor should have been bolder by freezing business rates until at least the existing system is reviewed”

While Northamptonshire Chamber welcomes the intention to consult on longer-term reform, businesses want to hear a solid commitment for change, not another vague pledge.

In my opinion, the Chancellor should have been bolder by freezing business rates until at least the existing system is reviewed, something which the Chamber along with the British Chambers of Commerce has long campaigned for.

Business rates, has without a doubt, been one of the most commonly cited issues facing firms’ ability to grow in our survey. Companies have endured 2.6% rise in April 2013 followed a 5.6% rise in 2012 and a 4.6% rise in 2011.

“Companies have had to endure 2.6% rise in April 2013 followed a 5.6% rise in 2012 and a 4.6% rise in 2011”

We would still need a new framework that is fair, more flexible, transparent and responsive to changes to economic conditions.

Rate relief schemes

I would like to add that we have long campaigned to make rate relief schemes work better for business – particularly those relating to empty properties, so the additional announcement of a 50% cut for companies moving to these retail premises goes some way to this.

Upgraded growth forecasts

Picking up on the upgraded growth forecasts from 0.6% to 1.4% for this year, the figures do show that economic growth is much stronger than previously thought at the time of the March Budget.

The projections of 2.4% for 2014, and 2.2% for 2015 are on the cautious side, although the expectation on that growth will slow in 2015 is also consistent with our view that the current spurt of growth will not continue at the current pace, so measures to boost growth are still required, particularly around access to capital.

Doubling export finance

The doubling of export finance capacity for UK businesses to £50bn is positive news for the county’s current exporters and for those wishing to break into new markets which will all help put Northamptonshire’s products on the global map.

The Chancellor’s measures in the Autumn Statement represents steady progress but more needs to be done if we are to create an environment to help companies thrive.

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