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Budget “choked on delivering change” says Somerset Chamber CEO

The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not go far enough in delivering change to support the economy, according to the Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce. 

Responding to Philip Hammond’s Budget speech on 22 November, Dale Edwards, said, “The 2017 Budget comes at a time of uncertainty, both politically and economically, not just in the UK but throughout the world. But the Chancellor, whilst attempting to inject humour into his speech including the cough sweet gag, metaphorically choked on delivering change to drive real economic growth.

“The fact that the OBR has downgraded productivity over the next few years from 1.5% in 2017 to 1.3% in 2019 should have been the stimulus for both significant capital and revenue investment throughout the UK. However, the message came out loud and clear that the funding will go to cities and those areas embracing devolution, at the expense of areas like Somerset that are dominated by rurality and small towns.

“It was pleasing that he had listened to Chambers across the country regarding the much needed changes to business rates, but he still has not been ambitious enough to look at a total reform of the system.

“There were welcome skirmishes in the side-lines, such as £20m for further education in the implementation of T levels and £30m on distance digital learning, but in the grand scheme of things these are very minor.

“The big talking point was house building with a £44billion capital and loans fund to stimulate new house building programmes, but when there is a shortage of labour and skills it is a big ask. His crowd pleaser was the scrapping of stamp duty for first time house buyers for properties costing up to £300k. Like most things, the devil is in the detail on what is meant by a ‘first time buyer’ and brings further complexity to the tax system.

“Overall the Chancellor could have done more to stimulate growth to provide certainty for businesses across the UK, particularly considering the borrowing amounts were reducing.”

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