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Commenting on today’s Spring Statement, Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Businesses will be encouraged by the Chancellor’s report on the UK’s fiscal health, with lower projections for the deficit and falling national debt, as well as his full-throated defence of the market economy and the role of the private sector in delivering prosperity.
“Yet as deficit and debt levels improve, the Chancellor must resist calls to pour money into politically-attractive, short-term spending priorities. Any headroom the Chancellor has must be used to leave a lasting mark on the UK’s infrastructure and to attract investment – particularly with the challenges and changes of Brexit ahead. A far stronger push is needed to fund and fix the fundamentals here in the UK over the coming months, and business wants the Chancellor to use his Autumn Budget to double down and spend to improve digital connectivity, deliver further road and rail improvements, strengthen the UK’s energy security and build more houses. Existing plans alone are not enough.
“Given that businesses across the UK have long complained about constant tinkering with tax rates, the Statement’s lack of tax and spending changes is welcome – and not before time. A clear annual cycle will mean fewer rushed policies and give firms the time they need to plan for any changes that come their way.”
The Chancellor also spoke about how he is “helping businesses by bringing the next Business Rate Revaluation forward to 2021 and that revaluations would then be every three years rather five” , enabling “a fairer reflection of rental values”. Talking about this point, John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers International said: “This is all very well and good but it does nothing to help those businesses, particularly the retailers who are struggling with the system today.” And “the change from a seven year to a five year, then a four year and finally a three-year revaluation system, only underlines how the Government has finally realized how disastrous the seven-year 2017 Revaluation was.”
Brian Palmer, tax policy adviser, AAT, said that the chancellor had announced in 2016 that he wouldn’t “make significant changes twice a year just for the sake of it”, and in today’s Spring Statement has indeed confirmed that the Autumn Budget will be the only major fiscal event of the year. He added: “AAT welcomes this as it provides greater certainty for businesses, policymakers and the public as a whole. We hope in time this will go further. The majority of our members have told us they would like to see Government publish a broad tax strategy at the start of each Parliament and stick to it, to help everyone know the general direction of tax policy in the UK, and provide businesses and individuals much greater certainty about the future.”
Meanwhile, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the Government had ‘failed to rise to the challenges facing Britain over the uncertain year ahead’, as the UK edges ever closer to leaving the European Union.
Khan said: “Today’s Spring Statement was an opportunity for the Government to show that they understand the needs of London and the entire country – but sadly they have failed to rise to the challenges facing Britain over the uncertain year ahead.
“While I cautiously welcome the extra investment in genuinely affordable homes, the Government has failed to take the bold action we so clearly need to protect jobs, prosperity and public services from the massive uncertainty which is coming.
“The housing crisis is the capital’s biggest challenge and we are still not seeing the level of investment that we need if we want to tackle it head on. We still need more and devolved investment, we need an overhaul of powers to assemble unused land for homes, and we need councils and City Hall to be freed to build many more affordable homes ourselves.
“There was no additional investment for the Metropolitan Police who have been hit with draconian budget cuts year on year. Today is a further sign that when it comes to the safety of Londoners, this Government is falling short of the mark. I have already been forced to stump up an additional £110 million in the next year for the Met – money that the Government refuses to invest.
“There was also no further commitment from Government to clean up our toxic air – and Londoners will be staggered that we are not able to access Government funding to tackle and mitigate air pollution – when the capital is so badly affected.”