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Gloucestershire Business News

'Power up the South West through Budget' says CBI

Bold action on skills, net zero, innovation and infrastructure can kick-start a new decade of growth and investment in the South West, said the CBI today after it sent a letter to the Chancellor Sajid Javid, outlining its key Budget asks for the region.

The CBI has urged the Government to 'power up the South West' with a series of critical infrastructure asks from the Budget on March 11.

The CBI says the start of 2020 has seen a welcome lift in business confidence. It says this historic, first budget of a new decade offers the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment across the UK. It is private sector investment that will lift productivity and enable all parts of the country to share in economic growth. Investment is also the key to building the South West and the UK into a global innovation leader.

Business strongly welcomes the Chancellor's vision to level up communities and lead the way in the net-zero transition and is committed to playing its full part. Private sector investment has fallen over the past couple of years. This Budget offers the opportunity to reverse this decline through pro-enterprise economic policy for the region.

To achieve this, the CBI recommends a set of practical steps for this Budget. Key proposals for the South West include the following:

1. The UK's business rates system puts many parts of the UK economy at a competitive disadvantage. A comprehensive review should reduce the bill on individual businesses. That review should be completed by year end to incentivise investment by firms across the UK.

2. Help promote further devolution in the region and offer a framework setting out clear guidelines to support the development of new deals and establish criteria for assessing deal proposals.

3. The Government's National Infrastructure Strategy is welcome and should as a first step commit to delivering South West rail improvements to unlock capacity and transport connections across the North. As part of the upcoming Aviation Strategy, the Government should recognise the key role that Bristol Airport plays in regional and national connectivity.

4. Innovation investment drives good jobs and global strength but is currently concentrated in the South. The UK should establish a network of high-end research hubs throughout the South West to build on local strengths, develop low carbon zones and support innovation clusters

5. Subsidise the provision of rapid charge points in rural and remote areas in the South West by 2022 where the market will not deliver in the short term, to ensure complete coverage throughout the UK using the £1 billion commitment to completing a fast- charging network as set out in the Conservative manifesto.

6. Duelling the A303 as a major government priority as part of a wider commitment to delivering infrastructure improvements in the South West.

7. To support the Government's commitment of levelling up the regions, funding should be provided to regional groups, including the Great South West to help bring the region together and promote the South West internationally.

Commenting, CBI regional director for South West Deborah Fraser said: "At the start of this new decade, firms are feeling more optimistic and want to invest. The CBI is urging the Government to power up the South West at the upcoming budget. Our budget requests will create jobs, growth and investment throughout the South West.

"This historic Budget offers the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment across the UK. Backed by a pro-enterprise Budget for skills, infrastructure and innovation, business can help kickstart a new decade of UK growth and job creation.

"Trade policy will continue to matter, but with strong domestic policy, British firms are ready to invest and get our region into the fast lane of global economies."

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