Hampshire Chamber reveals Autumn Statement ‘wish list’

Stewart Dunn, Chief Executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce

Ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday 23rd November, 2016, Stewart Dunn, Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive, said:

“Above all, the Chancellor must set out a clear economic path given continuing Brexit uncertainty and fresh jitters over the impact of a Trump presidency.

“On a recent visit to the port of Southampton to see the huge investment going on in vehicle handling facilities, Philip Hammond acknowledged how globally connected our region is.

“That connectivity brings competitive challenges, but also fantastic opportunities – if the playing field is level.

“Most of our members who export to the EU, or wish to in future, believe the government should maintain access to the single market and allow them to trade without new restrictions or tariffs.

“On behalf of all our members, we call on the Chancellor to resist imposing any other new taxes or costs on business and, at the same, time, speed up the much needed reform of our iniquitous business rates system.

“Other supportive measures include widening the annual investment allowance and improving the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy. Indeed, enabling business to resolve skills gaps through more financial scope for investment in people will not only help Hampshire’s traditional strengths of marine, manufacturing and engineering but also our digital and creative industries.

“The government’s recent backing for a new runway at Heathrow sends a positive signal that our region can benefit from more global trade. To support that however, the Chancellor should look at funding more ‘quick start’ infrastructure projects such as better road and rail connections, the construction of affordable housing and more extensive broadband reach.

“A simpler planning process would also help to free up more land for employment use, helping businesses to expand and create jobs so they can go to market.

“These priorities reflect what most of our members tell us. They want to stay resilient, competitive and able to invest for growth, and to achieve that, they need the government to demonstrate that it has the fundamentals right.

“Earlier this month, the Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark reiterated the government’s intention to generate around 35% of our electricity from renewables by 2020. In our region, the Future South partnership is encouraging ever more businesses to put sustainability at the heart of their growth strategies. That’s something we want to see the government continue to support through grant funding.

“Given ministers’ much-vaunted support for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, we’re also keeping a close eye on any reaction to plans for a combined Solent authority which could trigger more government grants in the south of the county.

“The Autumn Statement is the first set-piece opportunity to calm business fears and chart the way forward since the Brexit vote and US election. Let’s hope Mr Hammond rises to the challenge and injects some confidence so that both Hampshire and the rest of the UK can look forward to strong, long-term economic growth.”