Chamber urges Budget action on business rates

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Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber chief executive Louise Bennett. Photo submitted

THE change of chancellor and the outbreak of coronavirus should not alter the overall aims of the Budget, according to business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Sajid Javid’s replacement Rishi Sunak will deliver the Budget on Wednesday, 11th March after less than a month in office – and Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce wants its main focus to be stimulating economic growth.

Chief executive Louise Bennett said much had changed since the Budget date was announced at the start of the year.

But, she added, what businesses across the patch needed from the new government’s budget had not altered despite the unexpected change in personnel after a row over special advisers.

She said: “At the turn of the year, we were looking ahead to the official exit from the EU which would then allow the Chancellor and the Government to focus on moving the UK economy forward.

“Since then, Sajid Javid has been replaced by Rishi Sunak as Chancellor and there has been a global focus on the outbreak of coronavirus.

“Naturally, I would expect the chancellor to talk about virus and the potential economic impact as well as possible steps the Government will be taking.

“However, from the point of view of business and what companies across Coventry and Warwickshire want to see from the Budget, it’s very much about kick-starting economic growth.

“Businesses have faced years of uncertainty and now is the time to give them real confidence to invest and grow.”

Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber backs British Chambers of Commerce calls for a moratorium on all business cost increases during the term of the current Parliament, aside from any evidence-based increases to the National Living Wage.

It also wants to see a root-and-branch review of the entire business rates system and a two-year extension to the £1 million Annual Investment Allowance.

The chamber has also called for an extension to support for customs intermediaries as well as a commitment to infrastructure projects that will be key to economic growth in the long term.

Further to that, the chamber wants a long-term energy strategy that can build towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

In terms of people and skills the chamber wants to see an increase in the flexibility of the Apprenticeship Levy to see it evolve into a training levy that enables employers to draw down funding for all forms of accredited training.

It has also called for the Budget to reinstate the £1.5 billion of government funding that was withdrawn from the apprenticeship budget at the outset of the Apprenticeship Levy.