Businesses slate an ‘unfair’ Budget

Chancellor Philip Hammond departs 11 Downing Street, London, as he heads to the Palace of Westminster for the delivery of the Budget statement Picture: PA
Chancellor Philip Hammond departs 11 Downing Street, London, as he heads to the Palace of Westminster for the delivery of the Budget statement Picture: PA

Chamber comments on the post-Brexit budget

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Business leaders have hit out at the chancellor, claiming his spring Budget has failed to fix an ‘unfair and broken’ tax system.

Yesterday Philip Hammond revealed pubs and small businesses will receive extra help with their business rates bill.

The new measures mean that 90 per cent of boozers in will receive a discount while small firms set to lose their rate relief will see increases capped at £50 a month.

A £300m fund for councils to offer discretionary relief to the worst-hit businesses was also revealed.

But, the head of Hampshire’s Chamber of Commerce – which looks after the interests of firms across the county – said the chancellor ‘has not gone far enough’ and that the system still needed to be overhauled.

Speaking last night, the chamber of commerce’s chief executive, Stewart Dunn, said: ‘The chancellor once again shied away from any substantive reform of business rates, simply announcing yet another consultation.

‘I wonder how many times the business community will have to be consulted when it is so abundantly clear that the system is unfair and broken.

‘While we of course welcome his various measures to mitigate the impact of the latest valuations on those hardest hit, he simply hasn’t gone far enough.

‘Those facing the largest increases will have to go cap in hand to their local authorities for discretionary relief.

‘They will start from a disadvantaged position when they may be struggling to survive. Why not have a fair system to start with?’

Local Tory MPs have praised the chancellor’s Budget, claiming it will help to build a better, stronger Britain.

However, Labour and the Lib Dems hit back accusing Mr Hammond of breaking a Conservative election promise, claiming his first Budget will hit almost 2.5m self-employed people with a £240 National Insurance hike.

Labour vowed to oppose what it termed an ‘unfair £2bn sole-traders’ tax on the self-employed low and middle income earners’, while Liberal Democrats branded the move a ‘jobs tax’.

But the chancellor said the Budget package was neutral overall, as he braced the UK for suspected choppy waters as it prepares to go through the process of Brexit.

Mr Hammond said the Budget sets out a plan for a ‘brighter future’ as the UK leaves the European Union.

He told the Commons: ‘As we start our negotiations to exit the European Union, this Budget takes forward our plan to prepare Britain for a brighter future; it provides a strong and stable platform for those negotiations.’

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he was ‘building our economy on sand’, leaving the UK ‘less prepared for the challenges we face outside of the EU’.

Key points from the yesterday’s Budget include:

n A £216m boost to repair existing schools and the opening of 110 new free schools .

n A £325m fund for hospitals to implement their sustainability and transformation plans.

n A new £690m competition for English councils to tackle urban congestion.

Suella Fernandes, Fareham MP, welcomed the move to improve education.

She said: ‘This Budget highlights the government’s determination to build a Britain that works for everyone.’

‘Parents should have greater choice over what kind of school they send their children, so it’s great to new investment in free schools, faith, selective and specialist schools – the government has really shown that it’s on the side of parents.’

Havant MP Alan Mak said the Budget would help to boost the number of jobs in the area.

And he said income tax cuts would ‘help working families with the cost of living’ while new money would support the NHS and the elderly.

Mr Mak said: ‘This Budget backs families, businesses and young people across Havant and the country.

‘It helps them raise their living standards for the future, and ensures young people can get the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.’

BUDGET AT A GLANCE

Economy

The Office for Budget Responsibility has upgraded its growth forecasts for the UK economy this year from 1.4 per cent to two per cent, while public sector borrowing estimates have been slashed by billions of pounds and real wages will rise through to 2020. But Mr Hammond signalled there will be no end to austerity.

Business rates

A package of relief totalling £435m was announced for small businesses.

Firms losing small business rate relief will have their monthly increase capped at £50 for a year, some 90 per cent of pubs will be given a £1,000 discount on business rates in 2017, and councils will be given a £300m fund to deliver relief to small businesses.

Transport

Transport spending of £90m for the north and £23m for the midlands was announced to address pinch points on roads, and a new £690m competition for English councils to tackle urban congestion.

n NHS

Hospitals will get £325m to implement their sustainability and transformation plans and another £100m will be put into a new triaging projects in England to help free up hospital beds.

Social care

The crisis-hit social care system will have another £2bn pumped into it over the next three years, with £1bn of this available in 2017/18. Mr Hammond ruled out a new ‘death tax’ to fund social care.

Cigarettes and alcohol

There was no change to previously planned upratings of duties on alcohol and tobacco, but a new minimum excise duty will be introduced on cigarettes based on a packet price of £7.35.

Taxes

Higher paid self-employed workers are to pay an average of 60p a week more in National Insurance contributions as part of changes to raise an extra £145m by 2021-22.

Education

Another 110 new free schools will be opened, including a new generation of grammars. Free school transport will be given to children on free school meals who attend a grammar, and £216 million will go into repairing existing schools. New T-levels will be created to improve vocational education, the hours for technical training will be increased and new university-style maintenance loans will be available.