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Gloucestershire Business News

Budget 2021: The verdict from Gloucestershire

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his eagerly awaited Budget - but what did business leaders across Gloucestershire have to say about his announcements?

Punchline-Gloucester.com asked them for their thoughts.

David Owen
Chief executive
GFirst LEP

"For businesses in the county, the Budget was a tale of two halves.

"On the one hand, the Chancellor is seeking to support businesses through the crisis, extending furloughing, extending and expanding the Self-Employment Income Support scheme, new restart grants etc, while also laying the foundations for fixing the public finances and building our future economy as we move into the recovery phase.

"We liked the super deduction scheme which allows companies to reduce their tax bill when they invest in their business by 130 per cent of the cost, that's a good incentive to invest.

"There was also welcome further support for the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sectors.

"Overall, £67billion of tax cuts and spending increases starting next month, followed by £66billion of tax rises and £2billion of spending cuts in the subsequent three years."

Sam Holliday
Gloucestershire development manager
Federation of Small Businesses

"When the FSB sent its 26-page submission to the Chancellor listing our 'asks' for this Budget, we called on him to produce 'the most ambitious pro-business Budget in modern history'.

"I think it is fair to say that goal probably wasn't realised but - despite the puzzling decision to once again ignore our pleas to give vital support for hard-pressed company directors - there was plenty elsewhere for small business owners to at least cautiously feel positive.

"We all know that at some point a lot of the government grants and support schemes will need to be paid back, but now was not the time for any increase in taxes for small businesses or small business owners as that could have killed the hoped-for recovery before it had even begun so we are glad that this was acknowledged.

"We also welcomed the move to introduce the one-off restart grant to help retail and hospitality - a critical sector for the Gloucestershire economy - the extension of furlough and business rates support plus the new apprenticeship incentives.

"Bringing the newly self-employed into the grants fold was also pleasing to see.

"Overall? A steady step forward. But not the end of the story."

Steve Gardner-Collins
Chairman
Visit Gloucestershire Partnership

"This Budget provides a positive outlook for visitor economy businesses in the county until September, focusing on people and place which are very much at the heart of tourism and hospitality.

"The welcome extension of the furlough scheme continues to secure many jobs and will allow our accommodation, attractions, venues, pubs and restaurants to open up and balance money coming in and out.

"New grants of up to £18,000 for hospitality venues will hopefully take away some of this ongoing strain the pandemic is having on businesses in the sector.

"For now, we continue in uncertain times and what the sector really needs is clear certainty when employees can return to normal working patterns and a sense of positive outlook, not a continuation of the unknown."

Margaret Adewale
Director
The HR Dept Gloucester

"Although the furlough scheme will be extended to September, it will take some time before the true cost of the pandemic becomes clear.

"Extending furlough may at least allow employers a breathing space to adopt a wait and see approach, but it could also be a ticking time bomb.

"When eventually the furlough scheme comes to an end, the economic impact of coronavirus may mean that job losses will be unavoidable with employers not only having to navigate their way around changes to their business, but also having to overcome some tricky HR challenges.

"To survive and future proof their business, change may have to take the form of restructuring and redundancies.

"Not following the correct procedures, could lead to tribunal claims. Citizens Advice has reported an unprecedented amount of complaints and enquiries surrounding redundancy dismissal.

"It would be devastating for a business to have survived through lockdown and then be crippled by the cost of a large tribunal payout.

"So we encourage employers to seek expert redundancy advice to limit any risk."

Rob Case
Tax partner
Randall & Payne

"The Government has announced some significant steps in the Budget, showing continued support for the economy, businesses and individuals.

"Much of the support in place has been extended with reduced VAT for hospitality and tourism continuing, additional grants which will also include some of the newly self-employed who couldn't previously claim, extension to the furlough scheme and recovery loans available for some time to come, which is very welcome.

"Some measures have been announced to make a step towards paying back the money borrowed, albeit that the impact of a Corporation Tax rise will likely be insignificant in terms of paying back the country's borrowings which are set to peak at 97 per cent of GDP.

"It is also becoming clearer how we will invest as a country in new initiatives (and the associated tax breaks), including an emphasis on those tackling climate change to provide opportunities to prosper in the years ahead.

"On the whole it was a positive budget in the current challenging circumstances, but I am left wondering what more will be done in future years to tackle the deficit.

"Tax day is March 23 when we expect the Government will publish a number of tax-related consultations and calls for evidence, watch this space."

David Jones
Managing director
Evans Jones

"The eagerly awaited Budget feels like a measured and proportionate response, balancing job retention and investment against a road map for higher business taxation.

"As a property professional I will limit my commentary here to initiatives specifically impacting upon the property world.

"Firstly, the extension of the Stamp Duty holiday for house purchases and the staggering of the end of the holiday period is to be welcomed.

"The original targeted end at the end of March created an unwelcome cliff edge which risked stalling the housing market.

"The provision of support for first-time buyers and return to the heady days of the 95 per cent mortgage will undoubtedly act as a stimulus, but with no real policy commitment to increase housing supply the risk is that this measure fuels house price inflation.

"The extension of the business rates holiday will help those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors although my fear is this is simply a sticking plaster which does not seek to address endemic problems within the high street.

"The Chancellor has not sought to redress the imbalance between physical retailing and online retailing - perhaps one can hope this is something for the future, although time is running out for our high streets.

"The Corporation Tax increases seem unavoidable and I support the tapered increase with a degree of protection for smaller businesses.

"The new super deduction reducing taxable profits by 130 per cent of the costs in investing in new equipment is a shrewd move and should encourage investment.

"Finally the shift towards a greener Britain is supported with funding for various green initiatives, including energy storage and incentives to increase the production of green energy crops and forest products."

John Workman
Senior partner
BPE Solicitors

"There is a scene in a James Bond film where he escapes an island surrounded by alligators by leapfrogging across their backs.

"Here the island is the public debt pile and the alligators are risks - recession, higher interest rates, inflation and the effects of Brexit.

"Unfortunately, Rishi Sunak will have to go back to the island later on and the alligators will still be there.

"The Chancellor has, rightly, chosen economic recovery and support for millions over financial orthodoxy and bank balancing.

"Furlough and other grants continue and there is real vision in stimulating investment in new kit, new technologies and new ways of funding growth in green technology. I welcome all that with open arms.

"Taxes are going up - just more slowly than feared - by stealth and by taxing anonymous corporations rather than real people. And later. And only some of them.

"So when he goes back to the Alligator Island, he hopes these measures will build a bridge. I hope he is right.

"And by not stifling the recovery by continuing support and delaying tax hikes along with the end of lock down - add a bit of spring weather and the odd daffodil - there is hope.

"But we will still need that bridge. One day the books will have to balance and the public debt pile will have to go down.

"Growth - real growth - will do much of that heavy lifting. But not all."

Richard Neale
Director
OPS-BOX

"We all know Rishi Sunak has a difficult job.

"The continued financial support through the Recovery Loan Scheme from April 1 is welcome news, as is the Future Fund.

"There are also significant tax incentives for corporates investing in plant and machinery.

"Extension of furlough is equally welcome and, personally, the freezing of personal Income Tax thresholds was possibly a necessary inevitability of Covid.

"I still struggle with the continued need to prop up the property market with a further extension on the Stamp Duty concession.

"Having been in place for eight months and having fulfilled its intentions by stimulating the market, I really fear property prices are being driven higher to the detriment of the younger folk trying to get on the ladder.

"I'd also like to see the reaction of housebuilders, agents and lawyers who have been flat out for months and were probably looking forward to slowing down a bit in April. No chance now."

Alex Chalk
Cheltenham MP

"This Budget really delivers for people and businesses in Cheltenham.

"For individuals there's support through extended furlough and also the self-employed scheme has been extended, as well as the uplift for Universal Credit.

"For businesses which have been hammered by this pandemic, whether they are shops or gyms or other businesses, there's a restart grant to enable them to get more money to the bottom line.

"Second, the Business Rates holiday which has been worth £30million alone in Cheltenham has been extended and the reduced VAT extended.

"I was also, on a personal note, absolutely delighted that the domestic violence programme is getting another £19million. That's something I've been a particular campaigner on.

"I think this Budget delivers for Cheltenham. It delivers for individuals, it delivers for businesses and it means that as we slowly start to unlock, I think we can look forward to the summer and the rest of the year with growing confidence."

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