Spring Budget: Yorkshire business leaders urge Jeremy Hunt to prioritise skills policies, Grant Thornton survey finds

Yorkshire business leaders want Jeremy Hunt to prioritise policies to support skills attraction and development in Wednesday’s Budget, new research has suggested.

Findings from Grant Thornton UK LLP’s latest Business Outlook Tracker has assessed the policy areas that Yorkshire mid-market business leaders hope to see prioritised by the Chancellor. Mid-market businesses are classified as those with a turnover of between £50m and £500m with 50 regional business leaders surveyed for the trackers by Grant Thornton.

The survey found that incentives for employers to invest in skills attraction and development was the top priority (34 per cent) for Yorkshire businesses, reflecting the significant battle for talent currently facing the mid-market.

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Incentives to provide more support for international trade was the second top priority for the region, with just under a quarter (24 per cent) noting it as a key area on which to focus.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt is to present the Budget tomorrow.Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt is to present the Budget tomorrow.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt is to present the Budget tomorrow.

Measures to support digital transformation ranked in joint second for business leaders in the region (24 per cent).

This focus on digital is also reflected in the market’s investment priorities, with 80 per cent of the businesses surveyed planning to invest, either more or the same amount, into technology over the next six months.

Though the market continues to grapple with high prices, and businesses face the likely loss of energy support and the impending hike in corporation tax in April, the majority (82 per cent) of the Yorkshire mid-market respondents to the research are confident that the government will provide the necessary support for businesses in the Budget.

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Andy Wood, Managing Partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP in Yorkshire, said: “Certainty and stability are what business leaders and owners in Yorkshire and around the UK are craving. Yorkshire businesses highlighted skills and development as a top priority and this will be a critical area to address as many companies are still experiencing unusually high staff turnover rates and struggling to recruit to fill their available roles.

“Given the fierce competition for talent , spurred on by the rising cost of living and the quest for better work-life balance, the government needs to introduce measures that re-engage the more mature workforce, which if incentivised back to the world of work, could go some way to address skills gaps.

“Incentives to support international trade was also key for Yorkshire businesses and are a must if we want businesses to export and grow into global markets post Brexit, as well as help companies flourish here.

“Adoption of digital technology was also key for our region – which has a burgeoning tech sector.

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"The pandemic accelerated a fundamental shift in how we work, underpinned by a greater reliance on technology and the need to ‘go digital’. In many cases, digital transformation led to improved efficiency, new routes to market and greater collaboration. The mid-market now has the potential to build on, and accelerate, its digital journey and we need to ensure the momentum around this agenda does not slow.”