Suffolk Chamber statement ahead of the 2023 Spring Budget
Suffolk Chamber’s asks from the Chancellor are set against the backdrop of a year and more of declining cashflow, profitability, turnover and investment among our members and the county’s wider business community. Company forward prospects are being made worse by the unsettling impact of increased corporate taxation, rising interest rates and energy inflation and a lack of staff – all of which are combining to reduce confidence and longer-term risk taking.
That is why we want to see four big policy shifts across both the spring budget and the one scheduled for the autumn on energy costs, taxation, infrastructure and labour supply.
Firstly, many sectors remain vulnerable to volatile energy markets and confusing and sometimes contradictory Government schemes. We are looking for a continuation of a revised and more nuanced Energy Bills Discount Scheme beyond the end of March, increased Ofgem powers to ensure proper energy supply competition and, as per the Skidmore review, increased funding to improve non-domestic energy efficiencies.
Secondly, there must be a package of rolling tax reforms that incentivises and doesn’t penalise the county’s entrepreneurs. This should include a business rates system underpinned over the medium-term by more regular revaluations and liabilities based more on profits rather than a flat fee. In the longer-term, we look to a full review of business rates and its possible replacement by a system based entirely on turnover or profitability.
Thirdly, Suffolk cannot realise its full contribution to sustainable national prosperity with a creaking and out-of-date infrastructure. That is why we hope to hear, if not during the Spring Budget itself then soon afterwards in subsequent announcement, Government backing for investment in both Haughley and Ely rail junctions to improve the east:west transportation of freight in and out of Felixstowe and our other ports. We are also looking for confirmation of investment in the A14’s worst pinch points, especially at the Copdock Interchange where regular delays costs Suffolk businesses’ money and orders as the prelude to the promised upgrade of the whole of the road across Suffolk.
Finally, we are looking to the Chancellor to help businesses attract and retain staff by addressing spiralling childcare costs through more generous support to the Tax-Free Childcare Account, the introduction of a T Level financial incentive for employers who provide quality industry placements and improve guidance to SMEs to help them invest in digitalisation and automation, not least to take advantage of the step-change offered by 5G technologies.