We believe that the Borderlands Growth Deal can unlock improvements to transport and broadband infrastructure that many businesses in Cumbria have been calling for.
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the Growth Deal in his Spring Statement. It will initially bring £345m of investment from the British and Scottish governments to Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland and The Borders.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a real opportunity for Cumbria.
“The Borderlands Proposition, as put forward by the participating local authorities, makes the case for improvements to the A69 and A595, and other infrastructure improvements.
“Specific projects include a regeneration scheme around the Citadel in Carlisle, broadband enhancements and a feasibility study into extending the Borders Railway to Carlisle.
“These are welcome initiatives and, while they won’t happen overnight, the Growth Deal brings them closer. It should unlock significant private-sector investment too.”
The Chancellor painted a positive picture of the economy with steady growth, falling unemployment and real pay rises as pay outstrips inflation – provided the UK avoids a no-deal Brexit.
Rob said: “The Chancellor’s comments underline the need for MPs to come together and agree a deal whether it’s a version of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement or something else.
“He was right to say that a no-deal Brexit would bring significant short and medium-term disruption.
“We know from our own survey that many Cumbrian businesses simply aren’t ready for a no-deal Brexit.”
Rob also welcomed the Chancellor’s announcements that he is bringing forward a £700m package to boost the take up of apprenticeships and introducing a requirement for companies to report payment practices in their annual accounts.
He said: “We know that companies such as Carillion exploited their suppliers by delaying payments to them. This measure reduces the likelihood of that happening.”
But Rob was critical of the Government for waiting until today to announce details of the tariffs that will apply to imports into the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “There were rumours that Ministers were considering scrapping tariffs altogether, which could have been very damaging for some sectors – notably agriculture.
“They haven’t done that but it is baffling that they’ve drawn up these tariffs without meaningful consultation with businesses.
“We know of a company in Cumbria that imports machinery from the EU that will have to pay tariffs of 22 per cent. A surcharge of that order is potentially very damaging for them.”