Nottinghamshire business leaders say the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement had “some positives” for growth – but many were left underwhelmed by its attempts to improve the economy.
The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced some changes designed to help the wallets of workers and families, including a national insurance cut and a rise in benefits.
The minimum wage and state pensions will also rise, with Mr Hunt saying the economy has now “turned a corner”.
He also unveiled plans for a second Investment Zone in the East Midlands.
However, local entrepreneurs questioned how much the statement would make life easier for those running small businesses.
They gathered to watch the speech at an event hosted by the East Midlands Chamber at law firm Geldards, at the NG2 Business Park in Nottingham.
Tanya Ellen Cornford, the owner of water cooler company Water at Work, said: “I was looking forward to an Autumn Statement which might help small businesses and review corporation tax – but there was nothing on that.
“We heard soundbites on national insurance for the self-employed, which is great but doesn’t help those who have set up limited companies.
“My impression is that benefits have gone to companies at either end of the spectrum – either small self-employed businesses or larger companies who get tax support for investment.
“I’m confident in my company, having been running for 26 years, but it’s really challenging for younger companies. People starting now are very brave.
“It was easier when we began and there was more support. There’s a feeling businesses today are working hard to earn money to pay taxes.”
One of the Chancellor’s headline moves was cutting National Insurance from 12 per cent to 10 per cent from January 6.
Benefits will rise by 6.7 per cent in line with inflation, but rules will be tightened, and the national living wage will increase to £11.44.
Craig Brothers, owner of design agency Affari and Six Degrees Associates and a Chamber of Commerce board member, said there were “snippets of positivity”.
“A national insurance cut is helpful from an employer point of view,” he said.
“We constantly hear that recruitment filling is a challenge, and there were a couple of initiatives that could help.
“It is still challenging. There is business to be won, but the question is can you deliver it?”
The chancellor confirmed businesses will get a tax break for buying machinery and other equipment, and business rate relief will be extended for smaller businesses.
Richard Blackmore, Head of Policy at the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, said there were some bright points for businesses.
He described the tax break on equipment as “really positive for businesses”, and said sped-up planning rules “is something we’ve called for changes on.”
“The consensus amongst the people here today is that confidence levels are around 5 out of 10. There will be no fundamental change in one day, but there were some positives,” he said.
“Any potential investment in the East Midlands, whether it’s an Investment Zone or freeport, is really positive. We want to make sure the region is seen as a deliverer for the national economy.”
Becky Valentine, the co-owner of Nottingham eco-property developer Spenbeck, described the statement as “quite disappointing from a sustainability perspective”.
“I was quite despondent to hear the Chancellor was proud to continue exploring gas and oil fields, but there was nothing about green growth or infrastructure.
“I think businesses will be less confident than before the statement. They need stability – I’m nervous they are being bought off.
“Perhaps there will be a General Election sooner rather than later?”