“We know that a significant period of change lies ahead; that’s why the Chamber network this year, in its Budget submission, called for radical measures to enable business to meet the upcoming challenges facing the UK economy. Measures to boost investment, competitiveness and productivity are needed to embolden the UK economy ahead of and throughout the upcoming period surrounding Brexit.
“We welcome measures such as increasing the annual investment allowance, the package to stimulate high streets, including business rate relief, and encouraging SMEs to take on apprentices. Conversely, economic growth forecasts remain disturbingly weak, so this is a concern. It can also be argued that the statement lacked the bigger picture measures needed to drive the economy through Brexit, but some would say that’s an unreasonable criticism given the constraints in this area.
“Given our recent reports on local housing needs and employment land, we welcome the additional money for the Housing Infrastructure Fund, aswell as extending the cancellation of stamp duty for first-time buyers. On the downside, increasing the National Minimum Wage by almost 5% puts pressure on many employers because of the need to maintain differentials within the workforce. This is at a time when competition, price pressures and general constraints within the business community are quite testing.
“One policy decision we are still awaiting is on devolution. There is reference in the red book to extending the Transforming Cities Fund but, until our region gets progress on a devolution settlement, we remain disadvantaged. The Government needs to give our region the policy-making tools and powers it needs to fully contribute to the economy and decision-making. We therefore look forward to a renewed Northern Powerhouse strategy next year.
“We will scrutinise the red book further to give a more detailed assessment to our members and the likely impact on the business community and economic growth prospects.”