Budget passes business test

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

It's not often I feel a sense of satisfaction after a Budget speech, regardless of the party in power. A certain foreboding usually predominates, as I try to get to grips with the latest policy wheeze or unfounded giveaway.

But this time it was different. Budget 2014  was in many ways the best we could ask for, as it prioritised stability in the public finances and a relatively low-cost but confidence-boosting suite of pro-business policies. We do feel that this Budget passed the business test.

Crucially, though, it also passed the Chamber  test. On Wednesday our colleagures at British Chambers of Commerce(BCC) spoke with both ministers and officials who told them  that our Chamber submission had a direct impact on at least two of the Chancellor's announcements. So we can take a certain amount of credit for a new £200m apprenticeships package, whose core is a £170m extension of the very scheme we asked to extend - Apprenticeships Grant for Employers. We can also cheer the extension of enhanced Annual Investment Allowances to December 2015, and their doubling next year to £500,000.

Neither of these measures alone will transform the British economy, but they help our Chamber members put the building blocks in place for their companies' future success. The astounding and unexpected changes to pensions, too, may have similarly positive effects.

It was also greast that our work on getting the Bingo tax reduceud on behalf of one of our members which was taken up by our local MPs was successful. 

Big, structural difficulties still loom. No amount of positive GDP figures or spin from a Chancellor can disguise the fact that the deficit is still enormous, that further public spending cuts are needed, and that there are some fundamental problems - access to finance, skills, infrastructure - that will take decades to fix. That's why the Chamber is taking the long view through the BCC Business Manifesto in to which Norfolk Chamber members will have considerable influence.

Please do feed in to me or the team what would help your business to grow that you wold to be included in the BCC Business Manifesto. 

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