Budget Reaction from Greater Manchester Chamber
Commenting on today's Budget speech, Subrahmaniam Krishnan-Harihara, Head of Research at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "The backdrop to today's Budget and CSR was made up of a complicated tangle of labour shortages and supply chain disruption causing recruitment difficulties and serious delays in the delivery and increased cost of materials. Together, they present inflationary pressures and put up numerous speed bumps on the path to economic recovery. In the lead up to today, the well managed leaks had given us an indication of what we could expect to see: investment in transportation in Mayoral Combined Authorities, the rise in minimum wage and increased spending in health and other public services. Greater Manchester is set to receive additional funds for the proposed bus franchising changes and new rolling stock for Metrolink.
"The Chancellor announced today that projects in Bury and Ashton-under-Lyne are amongst 100 projects that will collectively receive £1.7bn of funding from the first round of awards from the Levelling Up Fund. Although significant, encouraging local authorities to bid - often against one another - for funds is emblematic of the piecemeal approach that has been adopted for the levelling up agenda and is not going to yield any long-term benefits.
"The UK economy has undergone significant structural changes during the pandemic. Strengthening the future of bricks and mortar retail, and the ability of the high street to compete with e-commerce, is directly dependant on reworking the business rates system. The 50% discount on business rates for hospitality, leisure and retail will be received by the industry with a sigh of relief but it is disappointing that significant reforms to the business rates system has been put off.
"In many ways, the Chancellor had his task cut out for today's Budget. He began his speech by saying that employment is growing, and wages increasing. Although there were some skills related announcements (and we are yet to delve into the details of Budget publications), the Chancellor did not acknowledge the one issue that businesses across sectors have identified as a critical barrier for their smooth operation and expansion: the severe shortage of labour. The expectation was that he would address these challenges head on and, at the same time, give wings to the levelling up promise made by the PM. Levelling up needs more than new buses and bid based grants for projects. It needs vision. It needs a long-term plan. Nearly two years after levelling up became the currency of the Conservative manifesto for the 2019 general election, we will be excused for not understanding what it is and how it will be delivered."