How we can turn the difficulties of the last 12 months into a brighter future - Beckie Hart

With a road map defined, and vaccine roll-out advancing, all eyes are on recovery – and the Chancellor’s Budget will give hundreds of our region’s businesses a firm belief they will get the support they need by extending vital support measures which will cushion firms until demand returns to offices and high streets across the country.

Extending the Job Retention Scheme was essential and will keep millions in work as we carefully navigate our way out of lockdown. The new Recovery Loan scheme will ease pressure as business interruption and bounce back loans come to an end, while restart grants for hospitality, leisure and non-essential retail will help smaller firms in these sectors cope with costs.

Added to VAT cuts and business rates relief, this amounts to a package which will prove a lifeline for many businesses and jobs across Yorkshire and the Humber.

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That said, the sad reality is that in the middle of a global pandemic and the UK’s worst recession in three centuries, not every firm and job can be saved and we need to bear that in mind as we look to support those in our region who will be impacted.

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There was confirmation of the new National Infrastructure Bank (which the CBI called for back in September) and a ‘Help to Grow’ scheme for SMEs which will do much to drive growth and innovation. The super deduction – cutting companies’ tax bill by 25p for every pound they invest in new equipment – should be a real catalyst for firms to green light investment decisions.

We saw action on carbon reduction ambitions, ranging from hydrogen investment in Holyhead and the announcement of a new green bond, to additional support for floating wind, energy storage and biomass schemes.

Further action on transport and building decarbonisation is now needed to make this a truly green recovery.

Yet alongside all of this pro-business activity, there was also a hefty rise in Corporation Tax from 2023.

The economy is in need of a long-term plan.

Businesses in our region are aware of the part they must play in supporting public finances.

Yet a six-point jump – albeit a deferred rise, better enabling companies to plan – is a dramatic increase, further reinforcing the need for comprehensive Business Rates reform and a strong focus on the wider business investment landscape to ensure the UK remains internationally competitive as a business destination.

A post-Brexit, post-Covid UK must be attractive to all types of business to build future success.

The Chancellor was right to target action on skills, innovation and infrastructure in his new Plan for Growth, and the stated aim of reinforcing our status as a scientific superpower and destination of choice for high-growth, innovative companies is a goal shared by the CBI – but it will take long-term unity to realise this ambition.

That’s why we need a shared dialogue and vision between business and government, to make Britain the most competitive economy in the world for the medium and long term.

Open discussion on how we build consensus around an economic vision for the UK. Inspiring businesses about the rewards that lie ahead, beyond the immediate bumps in the road, will drive more confidence.

And confidence will drive the more ambitious investment which enables us to look back in a decade and see that we turned the difficulties of the past 12 months into something good, that benefits us all. By getting these decisions right now, with policymakers working with businesses at local and national level, we can create jobs and build a brighter future.