Budget 2021: Suffolk business leaders react as Sunak shells out
- Credit: PA
Business leaders from around Suffolk have welcomed the chancellor's Budget – with some scoring it "eight out of ten" while another said it even had "the cherry on top".
Rishi Sunak today announced a tranche of support for businesses and families, ranging from tax cuts, increases to Universal Credit and extending coronavirus support schemes.
C-J Green, chairwoman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We’re pleased that the chancellor has extended business support measures until the end of September.
"As firms look to reopen, readjust and refocus, it will provide them with a level of certainty to know that the furlough scheme remains in place and that additional grants for non-essential retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will come into force in April.
“It is good to hear that more self-employed people will be able to claim grants and I was pleased to see new support announced for our culture and arts sectors, which have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
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“Looking to recovery, we were pleased to see a focus on creating and safeguarding jobs for the future, including doubling the employer incentive for employing apprentices."
Paul Simon, head of policy and communications at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "At first glance, Suffolk Chamber is impressed with how this Budget will support both the short-term recovery and the long-term renewal of our local and regional economy.
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"We are pleased that the Chancellor has delivered the vast majority of our immediate requests and those of our members, including an extension to the furlough, self-employed, business rates relief and VAT deferment schemes.
"We are also relieved that the increases in corporation tax will not take effect until 2023. Lobbying by Suffolk Chamber and other chambers across the country has clearly and demonstrably worked."
David Burch, director of policy at Essex Chamber of Commerce, however, sounded a more cautious note.
He said: "As with all Budget announcements the devil is always in the detail but there is plenty for businesses in Essex to welcome from today’s announcements.
"We have all had a hard time over the past 12 months coping with the coronavirus pandemic and the chancellor has listened in some part to the messages given to him by businesses and chambers of commerce about what is needed to re-open the economy.”
High street bosses gave the chancellor high marks for his budget, but said in a perfect world the coronavirus support would have gone on for longer.
Mark Cordell, of Our Bury St Edmunds business improvement district, said: "As always with these things, it was not quite as good as I had hoped, but not as bad as I had feared.
"Our position is that our businesses need the help for the whole of the year, but over the weekend it seemed as if the support would only last until June. So it was pleasing that furlough is until September — albeit with some modifications.
"Overall, I'd give him an eight out of ten, with regards to supporting town centre businesses."
William Coe, of Coes department store in Ipswich, preferred percentages. He said: "My gut reaction is it was 80% of what we were after. It would have been nice to have zero business rates for the whole year, but what has been done is not a bad first step."
Tourism and Hospitality
A hospitality boss said the Budget had everything they asked for, and even had "the cherry on top" in the form of freezing duties on alcohol.
Andy Wood, chief executive of Southwold-based brewery Adnams and a board member for VisitEngland, believes this is a good budget for East Anglia. He said: "We feel that this has been a good budget for the hospitality, cultural, arts and tourism sectors.
"For my sector, the hospitality industry, he's thrown more than a lifeline. He's thrown us a whole life raft.
"I guess the cherry on the top for me is that alcohol duties have been frozen across the board for the first time for 20 years."
Mr Wood also highlighted the freeze on fuel duty as "another step" in encouraging the staycation market.
However, he said: "There are two sides to the same coin. From Adnams perspective we take sustainability seriously and want to see a transition away from the internal combustion engine."
But Philip Turner, boss of Chestnut Group pub chain, said the measures would not be enough to save all pubs.
Mr Turner said he believed some trends caused or exacerbated by the pandemic had sounded the death knell for some pub businesses, as working patterns like home working changed behaviour.
"There are structural changes in how we live our lives which the Budget cannot fix," he said.
Estate agents have hailed the chancellor's budget as the news the "housing market had hoped for" and said the new guaranteed mortgages sent "a powerful message".
Tom Orford, of Savills Ipswich, said: "The stamp duty holiday extension is the news the housing market had hoped for. It will allow record levels of under offer stock to complete without the pressure of the March 31 deadline, and bring badly needed stock to the market."
While Lawrence Bowles, of Savills research team, said: "We estimate the mortgage guarantee will have a limited direct impact on transaction activity and pricing.
"However, guaranteeing mortgages sends a powerful message to the market about Government’s support for home ownership and for the housing market as a whole."
Matthew Pratt, chief executive of Redrow, one of the UKs biggest housing developers, said: “For a functioning housing market people have to move up and down the ladder, and the need to find significant sums of money can prevent those at the top of the property ladder from moving to a more appropriate home for their requirements, and freeing their current larger property up for a family.
“Sideways moves are often crucial for people who might be moving away for job or life stage changes, and the current stamp duty levels can stifle a choice which can massively improve people’s lives and open up options.”