The Budget – March 2013

Here’s a round up of some reactions to today’s budget speech by George Osborne


George Osborne's Budget 2013

Neil Rami, Chief Executive of Marketing Birmingham – which operates the area’s leisure and business tourism programmes Visit and Meet Birmingham – as well as its inward investment programme Business Birmingham comments said: “With inward investment and export levels increasing in the West Midlands, Birmingham is already seeing early results from its commitment to infrastructure investment as a route to economic growth.

Neil Rami, Marketing Birmingham

Neil Rami, Marketing Birmingham

“The city is setting an example for the UK by investing in large-scale transport projects that are unlocking private sector funding, encouraging the development of local businesses and providing foreign companies with a stronger case to locate here.

“The redevelopment of New Street station, the runway extension at Birmingham Airport and the creation of the HS2 line demonstrate a confidence in the city’s future that the UK must now show overall.”

“By endorsing Lord Heseltine’s recommendations, the Chancellor has highlighted the importance of boosting the UK’s regional economies through fiscal devolution. The ability of cities to influence the development of their infrastructure will be key to this, as Birmingham is already demonstrating.”

Rami, speaking from India, where he is discussing investment opportunities in the region with potential investors and airlines, also commented on the Chancellor’s reduction of corporation tax: “The cut to corporation tax reinforces the UK’s position as a leading destination for foreign investors and growing businesses.

“This is a time of intense competition, with locations around the world vying for the attention of major investors. Being seen as competitive and supportive of new investors and their growth, is essential for the UK to remain at the head of the location shortlist.

“This cut, which gives the UK the lowest business tax of any major global economy, will help us sell the UK as the place to invest and do business. More tools like this would bolster our offer and allow us to build on the number of companies and crucially, the number of jobs, we can attract.”

Government must build on budget for housing

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) welcomed parts of the speech; with reservations.

They warn that the Government has taken positive steps to address the housing crisis, but the measures announced may not go far enough to allow smaller builders to deliver the energy-efficient new homes Britain so badly needs.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “We needed a ‘Budget for Housing’ to address the acute shortage of affordable, energy-efficient homes in the UK. The Help to Buy package is aimed at stimulating the underperforming mortgage market, which could provide a boost to all firms involved in house building, renovation and repair. But changes to the FirstBuy scheme will be of limited assistance if it remains too costly and complex for smaller developers, who deliver a third of all new homes.

“Britain’s SME builders are in need of relief after years of shrinking workloads and rising costs. More than three-quarters of our members recently told us that the most important thing the Government could do to revitalise the home repair, maintenance and energy-efficiency markets would be to cut VAT. This would also provide a level playing field when competing with builders who choose to avoid charging VAT.”

Berry adds: “Small builders have so far seen little benefit from the Funding for Lending scheme, as a quarter of our members tell us they are having to turn down work as they still can’t secure vital financial backing from lenders to buy plant or hire staff. Unless it starts functioning properly, and as long as lenders continue to discriminate against those in the construction industry, our members will be unable to provide the jobs and output the Coalition needs private enterprise to deliver.”

Berry continues: “The Chancellor clearly understands the benefits that increased capital investment can bring for the wider economy. However, when seeking to stimulate construction and housing he must pay particular attention to the central importance of smaller, local firms in delivering growth.”

He concludes: “If Ministers want an industry-wide boost to jobs and growth while delivering desperately needed new homes and meeting energy-efficiency targets, we need bolder measures such as cutting VAT on domestic repair and maintenance work, and reducing the regulatory burden which discourages so many small developers from even contemplating building new homes.”

Beer Duty Escalator scrapped

Closed pubThere was good news for beer drinkers, bringing this response from CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.

Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive said: “This is a momentous day for Britain’s beer drinkers, who will tonight be raising a glass to the Chancellor for axing this damaging tax escalator and helping keep pub-going affordable for hard-pressed consumers. This decision will keep the lid on the cost of a pint down the pub.”

“Since the duty escalator was introduced in 2008, 5800 pubs have been forced to call last orders for good. What could have been the final nail in the coffin for our pubs has been decisively avoided by the Chancellor in a move that will spark celebration in pubs across the UK.”

“Scrapping the beer duty escalator, combined with a 1p cut, is a massive vote of confidence in British pubs and will lead to an increase in pub going and more money in the Chancellor’s coffers.”

“Today’s decision is a huge triumph for CAMRA’s pub campaigners who have been building overwhelming public support for a fair deal for beer and pubs, pub by pub and beer festival by beer festival. Over 108,000 consumers signed an e-petition and more than 8,000 consumers have written to their MP calling for a fair deal for beer and pubs. A Mass Lobby Day organised by CAMRA saw over 200 MPs meet with their constituents who highlighted the severe damage caused by the escalator.”

Budget Fails to Address Job Crisis

However, Walsall’s Labour Group issued the following statement, predicting a “bleak future”.

The number of unemployed in Walsall is now higher than when the Tory/ Lib Dem coalition government took power and evidence shows that the number is likely to climb as manufacturing industry reports a fall in output

On the same day the chancellor, George Osborne, announced his budget, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of people claiming job seekers allowance in February rose to 10,565; compared to 9,533 in July 2010 when the government introduced it austerity measures.

They follow the publication earlier this month of figures showing manufacturing industry nationally reported only 0.1% growth in the last quarter – sparking fears of a triple dip recession since the government took power.

Describing the latest figures as ‘deeply worrying’ Labour group leader on Walsall council, Cllr Tim Oliver, said: “We are facing a bleak future with no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. For every job centre vacancy there are five people claiming job seeker allowance.

“Manufacturing industry in Walsall accounts for approximately 13 per cent of jobs in the borough so the fall in output hits us badly, while over 30 per cent are in the public sector which is being savaged by the government’s austerity programme. In retail we have the second highest rate of void shops in the country – the only growth is in the number of payday loan firms and pawnbrokers who are opening premises in the borough.

“Nothing that the chancellor has announced will tackle these problems.

“Both in national government and in Walsall Council we have Tory/Lib Dem coalitions that refuse to accept their polices are not working or even to accept that their cuts are making matters worse not better.”

“We believe that instead the government should invest in growth, and that support should be given to those who are being hardest hit by the economic downturn. Scrapping the bedroom tax and looking again at the costs to families of all the benefits changes should be a priority before giving tax cuts to the richest people in the country.”

 Fossil-fuelled Budget

Motoring - the open roadFriends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “This is yet another fossil-fuelled Budget that will leave the UK struggling in the wake of forward-thinking nations that are already investing in the clean industrial revolution.

“Our economy desperately needs new ideas, but George Osborne is a 19th century Chancellor, using 20th century tools to fix 21st century problems.

“A few crumbs of comfort for the green economy are dwarfed by his enthusiasm for new oil and gas. That will cut little ice with the major energy investors demanding he commit to a clean, resilient and future-proof economy.”

Commenting on tax-breaks for shale gas, Pendleton said: “Shale gas is not the solution to rising energy bills – it’s dirty, unnecessary and its extraction will have an earth-shattering impact on local communities across the UK.”

Reacting to the scrapping of the planned 3p fuel duty rise, FoE Economics Campaigner David Powell said: “The Chancellor’s refusal to raise fuel duty in line with inflation has deprived Treasury coffers of £5 billion in the last two years, leaving other parts of the economy to pay the price.

“The driving force behind rising petrol prices is the soaring cost of oil – the sensible long-term plan is to protect motorists from rising fuel prices by weaning our transport system off its oil dependency.”