Chancellor urged to inject growth with statement

The Chancellor of teh Exchequer Philip Hammond MP will announce the Autumn Statement tomorrow
The Chancellor of teh Exchequer Philip Hammond MP will announce the Autumn Statement tomorrow

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A WISH list has been compiled by Hampshire Chamber of Commerce of the items it would like to see in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond will deliver his maiden Autumn Statement tomorrow against a backdrop of weaker growth prospects and a large deficit.

A lot of the statement is expected to centre around Brexit and setting up a system the country needs to support itself.

He is also expected to make announcements regarding stamp duty, infrastructure projects such as the Stubbington bypass, training incentives, additional childcare subsidies, fuel duty, corporation tax and housing.

Tomorrow’s announcement is expected at 12.30pm after Prime Minister’s questions.

Hampshire Chamber chief executive Stewart Dunn urged the chancellor to set out a certain way forward, and also for him to inject some support in the south.

He said: ‘Above all, the chancellor must set out a clear economic path given continuing Brexit uncertainty and fresh jitters over the impact of a Trump presidency.

‘On a recent visit to Southampton, Philip Hammond acknowledged how globally connected our region is.

‘That connectivity brings competitive challenges, but also fantastic opportunities – if the playing field is level.

‘Most of our members who export to the EU, or wish to in future, believe the government should maintain access to the single market and allow them to trade without new restrictions or tariffs.

‘On behalf of all our members, we call on the chancellor to resist imposing any other new taxes or costs on business and, at the same, time, speed up the much needed reform of our iniquitous business rates system.

‘Other supportive measures include widening the annual investment allowance and improving the apprenticeship levy.

‘Indeed, enabling business to resolve skills gaps through more financial scope for investment in people will not only help Hampshire’s traditional strengths of marine, manufacturing and engineering but also our digital and creative industries.’

Mr Dunn said that the chancellor also needed to focus on infrastructure, such as better rail and road connections.

He added: ‘A simpler planning process would also help to free up more land for employment use, helping businesses to expand and create jobs so they can go to market.

‘These priorities reflect what most of our members tell us. They want to stay resilient, competitive and able to invest for growth, and to achieve that, they need the government to demonstrate that it has the fundamentals right.’

He said they would be particularly keen to see any reaction to plans for a combined Solent Authority.

Mr Dunn said: ‘Given ministers’ much-vaunted support for a ‘northern powerhouse’, we’re also keeping a close eye on any reaction to plans for a combined Solent authority which could trigger more government grants in the south of the county.

‘The Autumn Statement is the first set-piece opportunity to calm business fears since the Brexit vote and US election. Let’s hope Mr Hammond rises to the challenge and injects some confidence so that Hampshire and the UK can look forward to strong, long-term economic growth.’

Elsewhere, small business specialist Lynn Adams-Ahern, who owns TaxAssist Accountants in Gosport and Fareham, called on the chancellor to support the small business community.

She said: ‘Local business owners need a well-deserved boost and a break from more tax rules, administrative responsibilities and costs.

‘We already face huge demands on our time and income – from compulsory contributions to staff pension pots, changes to the way that dividend payments are taxed, onerous business rates and digital tax reporting.

‘We’re calling on the government to increase the current Employment Allowance from £3,000 to £4,000, which would help small businesses maintain hiring levels and increase pay.

‘One of the other changes we’d like to see is to see the return of a Small Companies’ rate of Corporation Tax Rate to encourage growth in the small business sector, rather than landing them with sometimes crippling tax bills.’