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Gloucestershire Business News

Budget reaction from Gloucestershire's business leaders

So, how will the Budget affect Gloucestershire and those of us living here? Local business leaders react.

Kevan Blackadder, director of Cheltenham BID (Business Improvement District), said: "The business rates relief for businesses with a rateable value below £51,000 is to be welcomed.

"The current high level of business rates is one of the most frequent complaints we hear. There are a significant number of retailers, food-and-drink and professional sector businesses below this cut-off point in Cheltenham, so it really will make a difference to them.

"What doesn't seem clear yet is whether the hit will be taken by the Government. I hope it is not passed on to local authorities as they are already suffering enough from cuts in local government funding.

"The £650 million Future High Streets funding also sounds positive as long as, once all those millions are divided up around the country, it is enough to make a real impact in places like Cheltenham."

Ian Mean, Gloucestershire director of Business West, writes: "These days, the details of the Budget are leaked so much by the government that there are few surprises when it comes to the Chancellor actually announcing the measures.

"Gloucestershire is riddled with potholes and the announcement of another £420 million for councils nationally will help.

"I think at the last count, it was estimated that councils throughout the country would need about £12 billion to make the necessary repairs to them all.

"I welcome the £400 million capital cash injection for schools—many of them here are so very strapped for money that increasingly parents I know are having to subsidise classroom basics.

"In Gloucestershire, and particular in Gloucester there are some real initiatives being driven to alleviate the High St shops crisis. So, the government's big announcement of £675 million to re-invigorate the High Street is very welcome.

"In Gloucester, for instance, I could see real benefit of those empty premises over the shops being let so that life was coming back into the city. And for small business, the reduction in the apprenticeship levy from 10 per cent to five per cent will be good news for those small firms needing to take on an apprentice.

"We heard quite a lot about the Northern Powerhouse again and the Midland engine from the Chancellor but what about the South West. Don't we actually exist? - we rarely get a mention and business is getting pretty fed up with being ignored in this region."

Sam Holliday, the development manager of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) for Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath said the SME community had plenty of good news in the Budget.

''As with every Budget, the devil is always in the detail but I think it's fair to say there are a number of very encouraging items which will help the local small business community here in Gloucestershire and beyond.

''We are delighted that the Chancellor has listened to the FSB and others and put a real focus on supporting our high street independent sector and we very much welcome the decision to cut business rates by a third for the vast majority of our SME retailers. This will mean genuine discounts for the next two years for many of our high street stores which can only help in their determined battle to ensure we have the vibrant town centres our communities need.

'Elsewhere we also welcome the decision not to increase small business cost such as the freezing of the current VAT threshold for two years and the protection of the Employment Allowance. Both of these potential cost-saving measures will mean that small firms will have more support to help with the ever-rising costs of doing business.

''With some other encouraging news as well such as increased support for small builders, the freezing of the fuel duty which affects so many of our SMEs and the commitment to more investment in infrastructure, apprenticeship support and technology this would seem, overall, to be a Budget which can be seen as genuinely pro-small business.

"We now look forward to seeing in more detail the full extent of these measures.''

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders said: "It is important that the Chancellor has recognised the importance of investing in our high streets. He has announced a £675 million Future High Streets Fund to allow councils to rejuvenate town centres.

 It is estimated that as many as 300,000 to 400,000 new homes alone could be created by making use of empty spaces above shops on our high streets. This is space just waiting to be turned into residential accommodation. There is a pressing need to re-invent many of our town centres in light of changing patterns of retail and leisure. The Government should be applauded for its ambition to safeguard the life of our high streets."

Berry continued: "We would urge councils to take this opportunity to look again at how they can work with local builders and developers to make better use of existing town centre building, and facilitate the development of wasted space above shops. 

"We are also pleased that the Chancellor has announced £1bn to guarantee capacity to support lending to the SME housebuilding sector. This will be implemented by the British Business Bank, working with Homes England. 

"Many small scale house builders continue to experience real difficulty in accessing the finance they need to build homes, and it is often the smallest scale builders that experience the greatest problems. This new funding will help to speed up the delivery of homes and lead to a more diverse and resilient housing supply."

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