Sheffield Chamber Comment on Yesterdays (July 8) Budget from the Chancellor of the Exchequer

9th July 2015

Commenting on today's (July 8) Budget from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Richard Wright, Executive Director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: -We welcome the forward looking figures on growth and debt and are particularly pleased to see a focus on the importance of trading at a surplus - not just a growing economy.

-The Chancellor will feel he has achieved his objective of making it pay to work. Raising the tax threshold is definitely a way of giving the less well-off more money - but they have to be working. -Replacing the minimum wage with a national living wage could be considered a cost to business but there are other things in this Budget to potentially mitigate that such as National Insurance and Corporation Tax cuts. In fairness the vast majority of our members already pay the living wage but there are certain sectors where this needs more examination before we can properly understand the consequences. The Chambers position has always been that paying the living wage should be an aspiration of all businesses, but that will take time to achieve and not paying the living wage does not make a business un-fair. -We suspect there will be differing views about the apprenticeship levy within business, albeit this can be compensated by actually having apprentices in the workforce. Generally we support the aspiration of the Government to train more apprentices but they need to be higher level and of a better quality. The issue here will be whether we can get the quality of people coming through into apprenticeships. Schools are currently rewarded for pushing students down academic routes and therefore hanging onto them longer. Apprenticeships and vocational training are not second class routes to excellent careers and in many of our businesses good people at that level are where the real shortage is. -While the announcement about regional devolution powers was expected, albeit inconsistent with the recent "pause" on rail electrification in the north, we welcome the fact that Sheffield is up there in the vanguard. What really matters here is not that money is devolved to us, but that we spend it better, while also addressing the ongoing issue of how business support has been traditionally delivered. Devolved money should not be used to prop up inefficient public sector organisations and contracts that have clearly not worked well enough for many years. Why do we have economic development units in every local authority in the region, why are there 9 waste contracts, why do we make a measure of international trade the number of visits made to businesses when the actual objective is to measure the increase in value of profitable goods sold? We must use the introduction of a regional mayor to break down some of the political boundaries around the economy and introduced proper commercially driven programs utilising a much lower overhead. It's business common sense! Our support for a mayor is not unqualified. -The cuts in the welfare budget were expected and will not be easy for many people although they do appear to have been cut back in their intensity. Trying to address our issues by cuts alone will be very difficult so we have to adopt a much better approach to creating wealth and reversing the trade deficit. People should not relax too much however the autumn spending review will focus on departmental spending and that might be where things get more difficult in certain -unprotected areas like Further Education, police, local government etc. -However, overall, we consider this to be a fairly well balanced Budget in terms of both cuts and opportunity. -We also welcome the key message that said Britain is very much open for business. It is our responsibility to deliver on that opportunity. Wealth creation is clearly the job of the private sector but a lot of that has to come from international markets.

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