Shropshire businesses welcome Budget pledges

Business and farming leaders in Shropshire have welcomed a series of pledges announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to support the economy.

Richard Sheehan, CEO of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce
Richard Sheehan, CEO of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce

In his first Budget, Mr Sunak announced plans to suspend business rates for many firms in England, extend sick pay, and offer loans of up to £1.2 million to support small and medium-sized businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "Clearly the devil is going to be in the detail, but the initial response can't be anything but positive.

"Business rate relief will be welcomed, and looks set to pave the way for an even more complete review of the system, and the announcements on statutory sick pay will help many companies.

"There is support for small businesses, for our pubs, our high streets – it seems that the Chancellor has listened to, and responded to the lobbying of the business community, and acted swiftly. The amount of money being ploughed into the economy is unbelievable.

"It recognises the challenges businesses will face, but it is important the pledges are delivered fairly swiftly."

Steven Owen, managing director of Pave Aways, welcomed the Government’s steps to tackle the impact that coronoavirus may have on SMEs.

The building contractor employs more than 100 people at its Knockin headquarters and its sites around Shropshire, Mid Wales and the Midlands.

“No-one knows just how wide reaching this disease could be and, with businesses like ours where people work in close proximity to one another, it could have a serious affect on staffing and therefore a knock on to our company finances.

“The pledge to refund sick pay payments for two weeks for SMEs has given us peace of mind.”

He also hailed Government plans to release £12 billion in funding for new affordable housing schemes as a positive move for the construction industry.

“This is great news for building contractors like us and the supply chain we support. We have worked on many social and affordable housing projects in Shropshire and hope that some of this investment will come to our region.”

Richard Hilton, managing director of Telford-based access cover specialist Fabweld Steel Products, said: “It’s great to see such a comprehensive package of support for SMEs in challenging times, including the extension of the employment allowance and small business rate relief.

“As a company which is always looking to innovate, we are pleased to see the increase in research and development tax credit to 13 per cent which will undoubtedly boost the manufacturing sector.

“The overall injection of public spending in infrastructure, particularly in roads and rail will be good news for supply chain businesses too.”

David Blakstad, owner of the Old Vicarage Hotel & Brasserie in Worfield, near Bridgnorth, said: "If we were living in normal times I would say this is a good Budget. The announcement that small hotels and B&Bs won't pay business rates is a good thing and shows that the Government is listening. It is a positive move for us, certainly. However, we are not living in normal times.

"With coronavirus we simply do not know what is going to happen, and we need to make sure that we continue to bring in business before we worry about whether we are paying business rates or not."

Neil Lloyd, at FBC Manby Bowdler, said: "The Government's announcement last week that statutory sick pay would impact from day one, rather than day four was great news for employees, but could have proven tricky to businesses who'd be left to cover the cost at a time of already heightened disruption.

"Today's announcement, therefore, that for businesses with fewer than 250 employees SSP will be refunded for up to 14 days, even where employees have to self-isolate without symptoms, should be welcomed."

Mr Sunak also pledged over £5 billion to UK Export Finance (Ukef), the Government’s export credit agency that provides loans to overseas buyers of British goods and services – up from £3 billion last year.

Anton Gunter, managing director at Global Freight Services in Telford, said: “The announcement of £5 billion of new export loans to businesses is good news for all those companies developing new markets overseas.

“The appointment of regional trade envoys will also provided some much-needed support for our exporting companies and the overall package of measures to develop the infrastructure necessary to help business thrive is very welcome.”

Bridgnorth-based web design company Clickingmad welcomed the Chancellor's announcement of a £5 billion investment in high-speed gigabit-capable broadband for hard-to-reach areas.

Managing director, Shaun Carvill, said: “It is absolutely vital that every area of our country has access to a strong, fast and robust broadband connection. The pace of change in the digital world means that no area can afford to be left behind when it comes to access to what is now an essential utility.

“This announcement is a welcome step towards ensuring that businesses in rural areas such as ours can compete with their urban counterparts on a level playing field and enjoy all the economic benefits that the digital revolution is bringing.”

Mr Carvill also welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of £510 million of new investment into the shared rural mobile phone network.

"We know that many of our clients are incredibly frustrated by the lack of decent 4G mobile phone coverage across Shropshire, so a pledge to ensure coverage reaches 95 per cent of the country in the next five years is very promising.”

Mr Sunak also announced red diesel subsidies will remain for farmers as well as pledged £120 million in emergency relief for communities affected by this winter's flooding and £200 million for flood resilience.

Robert Newbery, NFU West Midlands regional director, said: “On the face of it, this Budget seems positive for West Midlands’ farmers and growers and we will be looking at it in more detail.

“We are pleased about tax relief on red diesel as there has been quite a lot said on this in recent weeks, while we have been busy lobbing Government in the background.

“Changes to this duty could have virtually doubled fuel costs for farmers and, with no current alternative fuel for agricultural vehicles, this would have left farms immediately uncompetitive with many other countries who continue to provide lower fuel duty for their agricultural industries.

“We are also really pleased to see the increase of £5.2 billion into flood defences, particularly the £120 million for the repair of damages caused by this winter’s storms.

“It’s crucial a significant chunk of this is spent on helping repair defences in rural areas.

“I hope this Budget signals a period of sustained support from Government given the difficulties over the past few months for our members with the weather and storm damage, among other issues.”

Paul Madeley, managing director of Madeleys Chartered Surveyors in Shropshire, said: "Overall there will be plenty of relief amongst the agricultural community after this Budget.

"There would have been great concern in advance about things like the abolition of the red diesel tax relief, however, with agriculture being exempt that is a massive boost to the farming community.

"I am also interested to see more details on emergency floods funding support. As I said before the Budget, I would like to see this extended to farmers and the farming community who also suffer badly when their land is flooded. The devil will be in the detail on this one, but I hope there will be some support for the farming community."

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