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Budget 2020 - positive response from Shropshire businesses

The age of austerity seems to be well and truly over, after Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered one of the biggest cash giveaway budgets in a generation.

There were celebrations on the Shropshire border, as the go-ahead was finally given for the long-promised Pant and Llanymynech bypass.

Shropshire is also set to benefit from a £320 million fund to repair and extend flood barriers and defences, plus a huge pothole-fixing fund. And many other local businesses will benefit from business rate cuts.

Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, described the Budget as 'very, very positive' for the Shropshire business community, with 'an astonishing amount of money' being pledged to support the economy.

"Clearly the devil is going to be in the detail, but the initial response can't be anything but positive," he said. "Business rate relief will be welcomed, and looks set to pave the way for an even more complete review of the system, and the announcements on statutory sick pay will help many companies.

"There is support for small businesses, for our pubs, our high streets - it seems that the Chancellor has listened to, and responded to the lobbying of the business community, and acted swiftly. The amount of money being ploughed into the economy is unbelievable."

Responding to fears over the impact which coronavirus could have on our economy in the coming weeks, the Chancellor announced a one year extension to the retail discount to leisure and hospitality sectors, as well as abolishing business rates for firms with rateable value below £51,000 for 12 months. This has been described as a positive measure for many small firms in the UK, by the FSB.

Other headlines - many designed to help companies through an economic slowdown caused by coronavirus - included:

Peter Reynolds, from Dyke Ruscoe & Hayes accountants in Ludlow, said: "It was an exhausting speech for all those listening, as the Chancellor gave away money almost every minute, to almost every sector.

"There was lots of good news for the sorts of small businesses we look after – with SSP funded in full for the first 14 days, retail, leisure and hospitality rates for smaller premises abolished, small business rates relief recipients getting a cash grant of £3,000, Employment Allowance going up to £4,000, etc.

"The worry is where it’s all coming from; the detailed press releases will need careful examination. In spending terms it was a Budget a Labour Chancellor would have been proud to present; in funding terms I fear that future taxpayers may well be paying for all this generosity."

Neil Lloyd at law firm FBC Manby Bowdler said: "The Government's announcement last week that Statutory Sick Pay would impact from day 1, rather than day 4 was great news for employees, but could have proven tricky to businesses who'd be left to cover the cost at a time of already heightened disruption.  

"Today's announcement, therefore, that for businesses with fewer than 250 employees SSP will be refunded for up to 14 days, even where employees have to self-isolate without symptoms, should be welcomed."    

Bridgnorth-based web design company Clickingmad welcomed the Chancellor's announcement of a £5 billion investment in high-speed gigabit-capable broadband for hard-to-reach areas.

Managing director Shaun Carvill said: “It is absolutely vital that every area of our country has access to a strong, fast and robust broadband connection. The pace of change in the digital world means that no area can afford to be left behind when it comes to access to what is now an essential utility.

“This announcement is a welcome step towards ensuring that businesses in rural areas such as ours can compete with their urban counterparts on a level playing field and enjoy all the economic benefits that the digital revolution is bringing.”

He also welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of  £510m of new investment into the shared rural mobile phone network.

‘We know that many of our clients are incredibly frustrated by the lack of decent 4G mobile phone coverage across Shropshire, so a pledge to ensure coverage reaches 95% of the country in the next five years is very promising.”

Anton Gunter, managing director at Global Freight Services in Telford, said: “The announcement of £5bn of new export loans to businesses is good news for all those companies developing new markets overseas.

"The appointment of regional trade envoys will also provided some much-needed support for our exporting companies and the overall package of measures to develop the infrastructure necessary to help business thrive is very welcome.”

And Sophie Williams, financial director of Corbetts the Galvanizers, in Telford, added: ."Sustained investment in infrastructure is welcome news, but the Government needs to ensure that the majority of this spend cascades into the UK supply chain. Too many times, we've outsourced work to the detriment of domestic businesses and the economy.

"If they get this right then we will certainly be in line to benefit as one of the main markets for our galvanised steel is infrastructure and utilities. It will give us the confidence to continue to invest in what is still a very volatile economic picture."

Steven Owen, managing director of Knockin-based Pave Aways, welcomed the Government’s steps to tackle the impact that coronoavirus may have on SMEs.

“No-one knows just how wide reaching this disease could be and, with businesses like ours where people work in close proximity to one another, it could have a serious affect on staffing and therefore a knock on to our company finances.

“The pledge to refund sick pay payments for two weeks for SMES has given us peace of mind.”

He also hailed Government plans to release £12bn in funding for new affordable housing schemes as a positive move for the construction industry.

“This is great news for building contractors like us and the supply chain we support. We have worked on many social and affordable housing projects in Shropshire and hope that some of this investment will come to our region.”

Richard Hilton, managing director of Telford access cover specialist Fabweld Steel Products said: “It’s great to see such a comprehensive package of support for SMEs in challenging times, including the extension of the employment allowance and small business rate relief.

“We are pleased to see the increase in research & development tax credit to 13% which will undoubtedly boost the manufacturing sector. The overall injection of public spending in infrastructure, particularly in roads and rail will be good news for supply chain businesses too.”

Brian Evans, managing partner of law firm Lanyon Bowdler, said: “Although not billed as an ‘emergency budget’, the Chancellor took the opportunity to include a range of measures to minimise the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“It was an interesting budget, and not, perhaps, the kind of budget that might have been expected from a Conservative Chancellor, with a significant increase in public spending on infrastructure projects and housing.

“It is to be hoped that this will result in Shropshire businesses benefitting from a levelling out of the economy and more widespread geographical sharing of economic growth.

“The commitment to spending on bringing gigabit-capable broadband to hard to reach places will also help in this regard. 

“With uncertainties over the future of financial support for the agricultural sector and the future trading environment with Europe for agricultural produce, farmers can at least take some comfort from the fact that although ‘red diesel’ subsidies will be scrapped for most people, they will remain for farmers.”

The decision to reverse a huge tax rise in Vehicle Excise Duty on new motorhomes has been greeted by the managing director of Salop Leisure as “fantastic news for the industry and motorhome sales”.

Mark Bebb said: “The Chancellor’s decision to reverse this extremely unfair tax is fantastic news for future motorhome sales and the leisure industry in general.

“Our thanks and congratulations go the NCC and partners for working so tirelessly to reverse the huge tax rise which was bad news for British manufacturing jobs and potentially damaging for UK tourism.

“The industry can now look forward to a return of the strong demand for motorhomes which we as a business experienced last year.”

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