As ever the devil is in the detail and more will emerge when we’ve been able to study the full Statement in detail. There are clearly however some positive moves in the Statement as announced in the House of Commons. In the joint letter from Chambers to the Chancellor in advance of the Autumn Statement we called for changes to planning, actions around the grid and full expensing. So it was positive today to see actions on all of these.
The planning system represents one of the biggest strangleholds on business investment so it is positive to hear the announced improvements to the system, which should mean speeded up planning applications (albeit for higher fees). There was also mention of funding for high-quality nutrient mitigation schemes which should help to unlock housing developments.
The announcement of measures to cut delays in grid access by 90% were positive, and it will be interesting to read the detail of these and see them implemented given that currently thousands of businesses trying to invest in a low carbon future are being told they will have to wait up to 15 years to connect to the electricity network.
This was in place as a temporary policy allowing businesses to write off the cost of investment on qualifying plant and machinery in one go. For every pound a company invests, taxes are cut by up to 25p, running through to 2026. It’s great news that this is being made permanent, which should have a positive impact on investment.
Notable for business in other measures include:
Freezing of alcohol duty, which is always welcomed by pubs.
£50m on increasing apprenticeship numbers in engineering and other key growth sectors. Investment in skills is always welcome and it will be interesting to see the detail of this.
Concierge service for international investors, again the detail will be interesting, as will understanding whether there is within this any potential benefit to Cumbria or whether the focus will be elsewhere.
Investment in innovation centres, although will any of them be in or local to Cumbria?
Establishment of further investment zones, although there was no mention of Cumbria among those highlighted.
Investment in zero carbon automotive, aerospace and life sciences plus a green industries growth accelerator supporting clean energy.
Abolishing mandatory Class 2 National Insurance for the self employed and reducing Class 4 contributions for this group by 1percentage point to 8%, will be welcomed by many, although the savings quoted (average of £350 per year) will have already been swallowed up by higher costs.
On business rates, freezing the small business multiplier for a further year and extending the 75% discount on business rates up to £110k for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for another year is welcome, but there remains a need for more action on business rates.
Additional support to help more people with disabilities and health conditions, and others who are longer term unemployed, into the workforce is good news for business at a time when so many are struggling to recruit. It is to be hoped that the support will be the right support and on sufficient scale to make a real difference, to both the size of the workforce and to people’s lives. It will be interesting to read more about how the planned work placements will work in practice and how employers are to be engaged, involved and supported.
The increase in the National Living Wage from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour and the inclusion within this of 21 and 22 year olds, will impact on employers, not just around staff on the lowest wages but impacting on differentials also. But treating 21 and 22 year olds the same as workers 23 years and over is the right thing to do.
We look forward as ever to exploring the detail and to seeing how these measures are implemented in practice.
We’d really appreciate any comments you have on the Autumn Statement measures – and indeed anything that you feel was missing – to support our ongoing representations on your behalf. Email: email@example.com