Autumn Statement November 2023 – Chamber reaction

Amanda Beresford, Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, reacted to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement:

“It’s pleasing to see some of the measures announced in today’s Statement.  Business needs assurance and support right now, in order to help grow the economy and create jobs; we’ve seen some of that, and that’s welcomed; but the pressures are still tough.  The significant increase in the living wage, for example, means that the tax cuts for business announced are needed.

“Measures to potentially boost consumer spending and help some of our hard-hit sectors like hospitality – like the national insurance cut – are welcomed; as are things like planning reform and investing in innovation and green energy; but these things take time to work through, and time isn’t on the side of some of our small firms.

“We recognise that measures to increase investment in infrastructure and people is desirable – like the ‘full expensing’ measure and the new investment zones – but the level of uncertainty currently around might mean these also take some time to take effect.  Speeding up planning applications will be welcomed by some of our members in property and development, too.

“As always, the devil is in the detail and we will be poring over the Treasury’s paperwork for further information, especially on the measures designed to support business and growth.”

Chamber head involved in UK/US trade dialogues

Reacting to Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said:

“We are pleased the Chancellor has listened to our calls to help businesses deal with the current economic challenges. Our Chamber network called on Jeremy Hunt to offer ‘much needed solutions to Britain’s investment problem’.

“Today’s statement provided some welcome remedies at a time when businesses of all sizes need certainty and security from the Government in the difficult months ahead.

“The decision to make full expensing permanent will be a boost to companies wanting to invest. Our research shows that 34% of businesses have already benefited from the policy, rising to 47% for manufacturers.

“We have long called for the electricity grid to be upgraded to help companies transition to net-zero. In our recent net-zero survey, more than a third (37%) of businesses told us they were not getting what they needed from the grid, in terms of energy supply and connectivity. If we can we reduce grid connection times it will make a big difference.

“We welcome the planning reforms and investment announced by the Chancellor today to help tackle this huge infrastructure problem. Business trying to invest in a low carbon future will now be looking for a speedier path to grid connection.

“Smaller firms will be relieved to see a package of measures that alleviate the cashflow problems they face, such as continued business rates relief for hospitality, retail and leisure, and new rules to help them get paid on time.

“The Government’s plans to support people back into work have the potential to help grow the economy. There are just under a million unfilled vacancies in the UK and three quarters of businesses tell us they cannot get the staff they need. Plans to support people suffering ill health could make a real difference, but there must be a focus on getting them into work that matches their capabilities and potential.

“Business investment is the lifeblood of local economies, creating jobs and supporting public services. The Chancellor has today taken a step in the right direction, but nothing can be taken for granted and we must all continue to focus on encouraging companies to grow.”

Autumn Statement Nov 23 – Key Points 

1.      110 measures to help economy 

Business / Planning 

2.     Planning system reform: application fee refunded if not processed within a certain timeline 

3.     PDR extended to convert homes into 2-bed flats 

4.     75% discount for biz rates in retail/hosp sector extended for another year; freeze also extended on biz rate multiplier (SMEs); average firm saves £12k py 

5.      Tax reform – Class 2 self-employed NI contributions to be abolished (saving £192 py); Class 4 contribs cut by 1% 

6.      Tackle late payments – introduce a condition that any company bidding for large government contracts must prove it pays invoices by 55 days, reducing to 30. 

Growth/Productivity/Innovation 

7.      Advanced Manufacturing/Green Energy – £4.5bn support for investment/innovation (£2bn for zero emissions automotive; £975mn for aerospace; £525mn for life sciences 

8.      LU measures – freeport tax-free measures extended from 5 to 10 yrs; 3 new investment zones (nationally) 

9.      £50m for apprenticeships, to boost numbers in ‘key growth sectors’, including engineering 

10.   £500m funding for AI 

11.   Permanent tax break on ‘full expensing’ 

General 

12.   Pension triple lock saved 

13.   In-work benefits rise in line with inflation (6.7% – Sep rate) 

14.   Pensions increase by 7.8% 

15.   Alcohol duty frozen 

16.   NLW up to £11.44 

17.   Local housing allowance worth £800 for some 

18.   OBR forecast the economy to grow by 0.6% in 2023, 1.4% in 25, 1.9% in 26 

19.   Inflation to fall to 2.8% by the end of 2024 

20.   ‘One pension pot for life’ 

21.   Cut the main rate of employee NI, by 2% (from 12 to 10%) – helping 27 million, according to Hunt 

22.   Benefit claimants to get mandatory work experience if not getting a job within 18 months