In a full response to the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, John Longworth, BCC Director General, said:
On the apprenticeship levy:
“Although we finally have clarity over the threshold of the apprenticeship levy, it will hurt larger businesses who will have to pay what is effectively a payroll tax. It is important that the delivery of the levy doesn’t undermine other types of vocational training, which could be better suited to some businesses. The priority must be delivering high quality apprenticeships, viewed positively by employers. Otherwise this is simply another cash cow from business that will not have the desired effect.”
“A lack of affordable housing supply is a big issue for business, impacting on their ability to recruit and retain talent. It’s therefore reassuring that the Chancellor is prioritising housebuilding on a national scale, even if we’ve heard much of this before. It is imperative that the government sets out further details on how these schemes will be implemented.”
On investment in infrastructure:
“Our transport and digital infrastructure has been in dire need of repair for quite some time. Fixing our broken roads and railways and ensuring a world-class digital broadband network is a no brainer if the government wants to support growth and boost productivity. The 50% increase in capital expenditure for transport is good news, but we sorely need the government to crack on and get building.
“There isn’t enough detail to show how the UK will develop a sustainable energy supply for the future.
“The creation of a Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund will help to unlock growth and development in the north of the country. But this must be coupled with support for businesses and a boost in infrastructure spending so that our transport system can be brought into this century.”
New tax administration target to reduce the costs to business:
“The cost of complying with the UK’s complex tax system has become a major burden over recent years and so businesses across the UK will view positively the new target for cutting the cost of tax administration. The new target will rightly increase the scrutiny on HMRC, but by reducing the number and frequency of changes to the tax system the government can also play a major role in reducing tax administration.”
On research and development:
“Increasing investment in science and technology is a boon to our dynamic businesses, especially in our thriving tech sector, so that they have room to grow. However, it is important that the move to replace grants with loans from Innovate UK does not reduce our dynamism in the global economy. Businesses must continue to feel empowered to evolve and expand, otherwise we risk being also-rans in the global race.
“We are pleased with the investment in health and energy research, as well as the protection of the science and research budget. This just one of the drivers necessary to maintain UK productivity – but it is equally vital that the UK does not lose its competitive advantage, and supports innovation by retaining our intellectual property.”
On supporting exporters:
“We await more details on the government’s future plans for investing in export support. Businesses need in-market support to enable them to break into new markets. Chambers of Commerce both in the UK and overseas are increasingly well placed to provide the help needed for those companies, especially SMEs who wish to trade the world with confidence.”
On business rates:
“Extending the small business rate relief scheme will support businesses across the country while the broader shape of a reformed business rates system is determined. We will continue to work with the government to ensure that business concerns over our broken rates system are met.
“The Chancellor recognises that support of the business community is crucial in implementing a supplementary levy for infrastructure – this should be expressed through a ratepayers vote.”
On Further Education:
“We are encouraged that the Chancellor has listened to the BCC call to protect adult skills funding for FE Colleges. A strong further education sector, which meets business needs, is crucial to boost productivity and make sure firms get access to the skilled staff they need.”