Calls for more support for Shropshire businesses as Spring Statement looms

Calls have been made for the Government to provide more support for businesses after warning that the economic recovery was stalling in the face of rising costs.

Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership
Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership

Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, fears some businesses will not survive without Government intervention as they continue to be hit with rising wage and energy costs as well as staffing and skills shortages.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to deliver his much-anticipated Spring Statement tomorrow.

Mrs Thorn said: “Businesses were only just getting back on their feet following the worst of the pandemic when they have been hit with a host of new challenges, and in Shropshire that includes the devastation from the recent flooding.

"They are facing rising wage costs, staffing and skills shortages, supply chain issues and the impact of an expected huge rise in energy bills – some of these businesses will not survive without Government intervention.

“We hope the Chancellor listens to the combined call of business organisations across the UK and takes urgent action to not just address the energy costs issue which will impact not only industry but households across the region.

“One such action could be looking at how businesses can be supported to introduce low carbon schemes and energy efficient measures which would help reduce our reliance on imported fuel in the longer term too.

“Our business support service, the Marches Growth Hub, is urging companies to seek out available funding to help them survive and thrive, with grant and loan funding on offer including help for energy efficiency and we are seeing increasing numbers of businesses looking for this help.”

Seb Slater, executive director at Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID), said: “These are uncertain times on a global scale, we are still coming out of the pandemic, so any direct support offered to businesses is very welcome.

“From a retail and hospitality point of view, the business rates discounts and VAT reductions have been hugely valued by Shrewsbury businesses over the past year, and we hope these schemes can be extended.

“As things stand, VAT for hospitality businesses is reduced to 12.5 per cent but that is due to come to an end in April, so we would like to see that VAT relief extended to help support our visitor economy over the summer.

“We also would welcome any measures to manage the rising cost of living, so that people continue to have money in their pockets to spend with local businesses.”

Gary Seale, MD of iDry, the company behind new body drying technology, is calling for a reduction in fuel duty.

"The Government is doing rather well out of the rise in prices. It was £1.80 at the last garage I drove past, so exclude VAT and it’s down to £1.50. Take off the 57.95p fuel duty and it’s down to just 92p, which is a lot more palatable to motorists and consumers.

"Instead, the extortionate costs are negatively impacting the supply chain and consumers and how long can we all put up with this. It’s almost like the powers that be are looking to make hay, before they lose out on £23 billion per year of revenues from fuel duty alone when electrification comes into play.

"In more positive measures Rishi could take, I’d like to see some form of encouragement to invest. If the British Bank could offer ‘bounce back’ loans at 2.5 per cent during the pandemic, why not expand that to companies who can demonstrate they need finance to grow, create jobs and trade internationally.

"This could help SMEs commercialise new technology quicker as well as making them more efficient and competitive.”

Brian Evans, managing partner at law firm Lanyon Bowdler, said: "I’d like to see the Chancellor take steps to lessen the pain that businesses and consumers alike will suffer as a result of energy price rises and inflationary pressures.

"We had already seen significant energy price rises, and the conflict in Ukraine means that prices will in all likelihood rise further, and stay higher for longer.

"That coupled with other inflationary pressures is really going to put the squeeze on all of us. The increase in National Insurance rates was announced at a time when things looked very different, and I’d like to see the Chancellor delay that rise.

"Reducing VAT and duty on fuel and energy costs to businesses as well as consumers will help to reduce costs on businesses and slow down the rise in the cost of living."

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