Neil Murphy, CEO of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, said, “With Parliament being dissolved later this month and whoever is elected to government producing another budget later this year, it was probably too much to expect the Chancellor’s budget to include significant announcements.
“Nevertheless, references to road connectivity in the South West gives rise to optimism that we will eventually see the expected improvements in the A303 and A358. However, we now need the money to be made available to make this a reality.
“We are delighted that a review of business rates has been announced, which is something that the Somerset Chamber and British Chambers of Commerce have lobbied government on for some time. Meanwhile the scrapping of National Insurance for under 21s and Class 2 National Insurance for the self-employed is particularly welcome, providing a boost for youth employment and entrepreneurship, as well as giving businesses a better opportunity to deliver growth and prosperity.
“Clearly the widening of personal tax allowances and basic rate thresholds is good news, but the value of these improvements will make only a marginal difference to the income of local families. More encouraging is the plan to allow farmers to average their incomes for tax purposes over five years rather than the existing two. This will provide some slight comfort for Somerset’s agricultural community.
“While much of the finer detail of the budget remains under scrutiny, we were hoping to see a number of measures which would boost business in the region, including the extension of the £500,000 Annual Investment Allowance, and consideration given to opening this up to include property in addition to capital plant and equipment. The Chancellor has deferred any decisions on this until later in the year but hinted that a return to the previous cap of £25,000 is not likely.
“Overall the Somerset Chamber welcomes the Chancellor’s report, which shows the economy grew by 2.6% in 2014 and is forecasted to grow further by 2.5% in 2015, representing an improvement of 0.1% on previous forecasts. However, the pace of recovery remains slow and with inflation projected to reduce to 2% during 2015, businesses will continue to find it difficult to increase margin in the medium term.
“The Somerset Chamber will continue to work closely with the British Chambers of Commerce to ensure that whatever the result of this year’s General Election, the next government builds on the promises set out within this budget.”
Businesses will be given an opportunity to hear from and influence their local candidates prior to the General Election through a series of hustings being organised by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce. Further information can be found on the Somerset Chamber events page www.somerset-chamber.co.uk/events