Gwynne blasts Osbourne / Budget reactions
Wednesday 16th March 2016 @ 18:16 by Nigel Skinner
Business Comment Denton & Audenshaw News

Tameside Labour MP Andrew Gwynne was the first locally to take a swipe at George Osbourne’s Budget today.

He blasted the Chancellor for delivering a budget, he says, hits the poorest hardest, yet rewards the wealthiest.

“This was a budget for making the Tory Party feel good about itself – paid for by those who can least afford it,” said the Denton and Reddish MP.

“Today’s budget reveals that Osborne is set to borrow £38.5bn more than he planned in November last year.

“George Osborne promised to balance the books by 2015 but he has failed – we’re now in 2016 and there’s still no sign of him meeting his promise.

“While over half a million people with disabilities are losing over £1 billion in personal independence payments, those at the top are being granted tax breaks and corporations are being handed billions in tax cuts.

“The single biggest revenue raiser in the next five years is a huge cut to support for the disabled – which is funding a Capital Gains Tax cut for the very wealthiest.”


 

Budget at a glance and reactions…

  • INFRASTRUCTURE
  • HS3 between Manchester and Leeds / road improvements.

Christian Spence, Head of Research & Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said:

 “Confirmation for HS3 between Manchester and Leeds, further research into a Manchester to Sheffield tunnel and faster and more extensive upgrades of the M60/M62 are positive news: the Chamber has been resolute that the success of the Powerhouse initiative is predicated on faster, more frequent and easier journeys both within and between the cities of the north, and that the key link is that between Greater Manchester and Leeds. The focus specifically on this by the National Infrastructure Commission and its backing by George Osborne is a significant move forward. The bigger projects will take time – business understands that – but the focus on speeding up some of the easier tasks is excellent and should be commended.”

Natalie Gasson, Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“Increased investment in roads, rail, and flood defences, should give a much needed boost to the UK’s infrastructure.  Altogether, these measures should help to drive productivity and boost small business confidence levels, which have faltered recently in the face of a number of domestic policy and global economic challenges.”

Patricia Moore, UK head of infrastructure for Turner & Townsend, added:

“Future spending on transport projects such as HS3, a new tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield, and upgrades to the M62 and main A66 and A69 roads, will all help stimulate and reinvigorate the economy in the North providing a much-needed boost to jobs and trade. This budget is a clear sign that George Osborne means business for the Northern Powerhouse. For far too long, people living and working in the North have played second fiddle to the South, suffering from unacceptable travel delays particularly on the M62, which costs time and money.”

Edmund King OBE, AA president, added:

“Upgrades to east-west road links are absolutely essential as they lag behind north-south connections. The lack of road capacity is a barrier to trade and mobility. Plans to upgrade the M62 motorway to the east and west of Manchester are long overdue as we’ve seen very little spent on cross-country infrastructure. However the government must not skimp on safety, as an increasing number of AA members were becoming stranded in live lanes on smart motorway sections due to a lack of emergency laybys. The design recommends an emergency refuge area every 2.5km but we need to see double the number to keep these supposedly SMART roads safe.”


 

  • FUEL DUTY

Frozen for the sixth consecutive year, a saving of £75 for the average driver.

Natalie Gasson, Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“Freezing fuel duty will be universally welcomed by small businesses right across the country.”

Edmund King OBE, AA president, added:

“We are delighted that the Chancellor has resisted the temptation to increase fuel duty which will bring relief at the pumps for millions of motorists. So the Chancellor has introduced a sweetener for drivers on the fuel duty freeze but a 4% increase in insurance tax since November 2015 still leaves a sour taste.


 

 

  • BUSINESS RATES
  • The threshold for small business rate relief is to increase from £6,000 to £15,000.
  • From April next year 600,000 small businesses will pay no business rates.

Christian Spence, Head of Research & Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said:

“The business rates system has long been a complaint of businesses across the country. The exemption of 600,000 of them from the system is a good start, and the proposals to revalue more often, if successfully linked to a lighter-touch administration, should make a big difference to many companies, but the detail of that reform will be crucial. Greater Manchester will now form one of two pilots for 100 per cent localisation three years earlier than planned in 2017; the connection between business rates and local authority revenue is strong and will only increase over this decade. The key to success is balancing the needs of both business and local government, and that won’t be easy.

“Greater Manchester will receive additional devolution powers in the criminal justice system, allowing it locally to better manage ex-offenders, and a wider support of schools in the North is designed to close the attainment gap between northern schools and those of the rest of the UK; a similar system was run in London over the past decade with good outcomes.

“Osborne is clearly not losing his touch for radical reform: the challenge is not the creation of ideas, but their successful implementation and delivery. That is where government must redouble its efforts.”

Natalie Gasson, Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, added:

“In a Budget constrained by both the need to reduce the deficit and the economic outlook, the Chancellor has listened to our calls for the tax system to be made simpler for small businesses and the self-employed and taken important action on business rates.
“In particular, FSB members have campaigned hard to make Small Business Rates Relief permanent, and expand it – and the Chancellor has heeded our calls, taking many small firms out of the system altogether. The combined measures announced on business rates – the single biggest tax cut in today’s Budget – will be viewed by our members as a welcome and important step on the road to fundamental reform. In addition, online retailers will benefit from steps to secure a level playing field for smaller online businesses on VAT.”


 

  • SUGAR LEVY ON SOFT DRINKS
  • This aims to raise £520m in a two-part levy on companies to be introduced in two years’ time. Pure fruit juice and milk are excluded. It will be used to fund sport and longer school days.

Baroness Shelia Hollins, BMA Board of Science Chair, said:

“The chancellor’s decision to introduce a new levy on excessive sugar in soft drinks is a welcome step forward and a move called for in the BMA’s recent Food for Thought report. This is an important initiative that could help to begin to address the obesity crisis amongst young children, although the delay in introducing it for two years is disappointing.

“More needs to be done to invest in proper preventive measures that protect people’s lives and the public’s resources. The implementation of minimum alcohol unit pricing is still also badly needed given the billions spent on the impact of excessive alcohol consumption.”

Dr Mark Porter, BMA Council Chair, added:

“It is disgraceful given the crisis facing the NHS that there was no promise of extra funding for a health service that is buckling under pressure from rising patient demand, falling resources and staff shortages. Hospitals and GP practices around the country are at breaking point and need urgent, extra investment to maintain even basic care to their patients.”


 

  • HOUSING

Mark Hayward, managing director, National Association of Estate Agents, said:

“The Chancellor’s announcement that a new lifetime ISA could be used to help people buy their first home is welcome news. Helping first-time-buyers (FTBs) to get on the housing ladder should be a priority for the government and limiting this to those aged 40 or under emphasises the real issues for those trying to get on the housing ladder. Our recent Housing 2025 report forecast that house prices will soar by 50% by 2025, meaning that the task of helping FTBs to get on the first wrung of the housing ladder is only set to get more difficult for many people across the UK.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, added:

“The Government has set itself a target of a million new homes by 2020. That is rightly ambitious, but the continuing gap between what’s being built and what needs to be built makes hitting that target more difficult by the day. Official statistics show that annual housing completions in England totalled just over 140,000 in 2015, a long way short of the 200,000 homes we need every year to hit one million. We are nearly 12 months into the current Parliament and the Government is already falling well behind on its targets. We recognise that the Government is working on a number of fronts to speed up the planning process and intervene to support first time buyers, and some of the measures in today’s Budget are welcome steps forward. Yet these announcements are limited in scope and won’t signal the step change that we need to see. We cannot afford to lose momentum in the battle to beat the housing crisis.”

David Cox, managing director, Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), said: 

“This is now the third Budget which directly attacks landlords. The sector has been punitively taxed, with stamp duty on buy-to-let properties, mortgage interest relief and now capital gains tax changes. It’s an outright assault on the sector!”

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer, National landlords Association (NLA), added:

“The Chancellor said that this government would tax the things it wants to reduce not the things it wants to encourage. On that basis, it’s clear he does not regard ordinary people putting their own money into providing homes as worthwhile. The steady upward ratchet of taxation on landlords over the past year shows that George Osborne is determined to bear down on the private rented sector, but he still depends on the tax revenues he expects to pull in from them.”


 

  • ALCOHOL
  • Duty on beer, cider and whisky frozen.

Mike Benner, SIBA Managing Director said:

“It’s very good news for the UK’s independent craft brewers that the Chancellor has frozen beer duty. The end of the duty escalator and three cuts in beer duty since 2013 have helped to revitalise British beer and around 300 new craft breweries have opened since 2013 bringing thousands of new local beers for consumers to enjoy. Our members are typically confident about the future of their businesses and this move will help reinforce that and encourage greater investment.”