West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce says that the lack of movement on high-speed rail infrastructure for the region in today’s Autumn Statement represents a missed opportunity for the levelling up.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed that HS2 would still be built, but only to Manchester, and committed to the building of ‘core’ Northern Powerhouse Rail, a project that will not see the construction of a new railway station for Bradford.
While the Chamber notes that there will be no further cuts to either programme, as had been pressed for by some backbenchers, it is still disappointed that there has been no movement towards enhancing them to levels that had been previously promised.
The Chamber further remarks that while the Autumn Statement will provide some economic stability for the region and country, it is unlikely to give business confidence the boost it so desperately needs.
Question marks remain on energy costs beyond the Energy Bill Relief Scheme which ends on March 31 of next year and further clarity is needed.
And while support on business rates and the retention of employment allowance is welcome, businesses in our region need an environment in which they can invest and grow to help drive the country out of recession.
Amanda Beresford, Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber, said: “While it is welcome that the Government has not, as had been rumoured, decided against mothballing rail infrastructure projects, it was disappointing to hear that HS2 is not planned to come to Yorkshire and that there is only a commitment for ‘core’ Northern Powerhouse Rail that will not see the construction of a new railway station in Bradford.
“Infrastructure remains weak for too many parts of West & North Yorkshire and the Integrated Rail Plan still comes up short against what had been promised by previous Governments.
“It remains the view of the Chamber that this represents a missed opportunity for the country, as well as ignoring the wishes of the overwhelming majority of business leaders in this region.
“The packages announced concerning the reform of Business Rates and additional support is welcome, particularly for businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector. Similarly, measures to encourage dormant sections of the workforce to return to employment will be welcome for business owners who are currently struggling to fill vacancies.
“The fact remains that inflation is still at a 40 year high and, while forecasts show it will likely fall in 2023, businesses are still struggling with eye-watering costs and scaling back on investment plans.
“Businesses in Yorkshire will continue to look to Government to take meaningful steps to commit to Levelling Up and ensuring a fairer and more broadly based economic recovery.”
British Chamber of Commerce Director General, Shevaun Haviland, said: “The Chancellor has stayed true to his word in focusing on financial stability and targeting support for the most vulnerable in society. But in the teeth of a recession, this statement will not increase business confidence.
“Businesses will look at today’s announcements and welcome support with business rates, and retention of the employment allowance, though the reduction in the dividend allowance will impact many smaller firms.
“Almost half of businesses tell us they will find it difficult to pay their energy bills once the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme ends on 31 March 2023. The sooner we get clarity on where future support will be targeted the better.
“It is good to hear plans to improve energy efficiency across the economy, but we need to see greater urgency as firms battle with their bills in the here and now.
“It is also good news that Sizewell C will proceed, and we are relieved that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail have not been cut further.
“The Government must do more to improve conditions for businesses to invest and grow, otherwise we will be starting from a weak base to power our recovery once global economic conditions stabilise.
“The Chancellor’s Statement is light on green innovation, doesn’t address current labour shortages and has nothing on boosting export led-growth.”
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