Just as businesses were hoping for a bit of post-Brexit calm and certainty, along came the coronavirus to significantly disrupt the economy and how we conduct both our lives and our businesses. In the midst of the pandemic, new Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak brandished the famous Red Box as, just days into one of the toughest jobs in Westminster, he delivered the Government’s first Budget of the new Parliamentary term. Business Network takes a closer look at the detail to asses its potential impacts on business.

agenda, which means many other issues, including Brexit, are understandably not getting any airtime. However, it’s important to remember that although supporting the economy, businesses and the nation’s workers at such a critical time, when their health and wellbeing should be the immediate priority, there are other challenges which businesses continue to face. While the Budget addressed the immediate

challenges facing the economy, the Chancellor will have to do more to support businesses as they navigate changes to trading arrangements and the end of the Brexit transition period. It was good to see these being addressed in

the Budget. Increases to infrastructure spending and

sharper investment incentives will help businesses grow over the longer-term. The Government’s commitment to ‘unleash

the power of business’ was well received although, as ever, the devil will be in the detail. More funding for start-up loans, backing for

businesses looking to export, as well as continued support from Growth Hubs are an important part of developing the business support landscape following our exit from the European Union. But, in the fullness of time, details will be required as to how such elements will be funded. As a region blessed with innovative and

forward-thinking businesses, the extra support announced in relation to R&D investment is encouraging, although more businesses need to be supported to access this. The reform, rather than the abolition, of

Entrepreneur’s Relief will also enable businesses to continue to take calculated risks and innovate. It is vital to the UK’s economic prosperity that

promising young firms and entrepreneurs continue to have access to the sort of long-term investment that may not otherwise happen. In terms of Business Rates, while short-term

relief for many thousands of businesses is to be welcomed, larger firms will still have to wait until the autumn for a further review of Britain's broken system. This is an issue that the Chamber has long campaigned on and it’s crucial that real action is taken to reduce high upfront costs across the board.

Abandoning the goal of fiscal neutrality for

the reforms would be an important starting point. Infrastructure is always an issue which we feel

more can be done about. If the UK in general, and the East Midlands in particular, is to truly become a world-class place to invest and do business in, then more needs to be done to upgrade our infrastructure, to improve our digital connectivity and increase the quality and capacity of Britain’s road and rail networks.

The Chancellor’s additional coronavirus package of an initial £330bn was made a week after the Budget and Chamber reaction can be found on p32.

THE KEY POINTS FROM MR SUNAK’S INTERVENTION INCLUDE: • A package of £330bn of loan guarantees to businesses, with more available if needed

• Interest-free business interruption loans will be increased to £5m, up from £1.2m announced in the Budget. No interest will be due for the first six months

• A 12-month business rates holiday for all shops, pubs, theatres, music venues, restaurants and any other hospitality or leisure businesses

• A cash grant of up to £25,000 for businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 • A three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty because of coronavirus • Cash grants of £10,000 to 700,000 for the smallest businesses

• Local Authorities will be fully compensated for the cost of these measures, with at least £3.5bn going to devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

• A potential support package for airlines and airports in the face of worldwide travel bans business network April 2020 55 Removing barriers to infrastructure investment

across all parts of the UK is vital. A review of the Green Book, which can be a roadblock to important local and regional infrastructure programmes, is welcome. Business engagement in the review is vital.

‘The focus on investing in high-skill, high-wage, low carbon jobs presents a real opportunity for the East Midlands’

If the East Midlands is to truly level up,

infrastructure investment is paramount and to that end, a recommitment to major infrastructure in the region - including the pre-announced Transforming Cities Fund for Derby and Nottingham – is a positive, as is the commitment to improving the strategically important A46, often referred to as the Trans-Midlands Trade Corridor.

Further funding for the Midlands Rail Hub,

which unlocks regional rail routes across the East Midlands, and £27bn funding for the country’s strategic roads network, will also be crucial to our region’s long-term prosperity. Equally, the focus on investing in high-skill,

high-wage, low carbon jobs presents a real opportunity for the East Midlands, while additional funding for flood damage repair will be important for the parts of our region affected. While some measures announced in Mr

Sunak’s speech centred on Education, the Budget statement was relatively light on how we ensure businesses access the right people in the long term – away from immediate pressures, this is one of the biggest priorities we face as a country and a perennial issue facing members we speak with. Overall, though, businesses across the East Midlands will have been encouraged by the measures outlined in the Budget and the impact such measures will have in the short-term and moving forward.

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