Local businesses and organisations have been reacting to today’s Budget statement.
Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Like most Budgets this is a curate’s egg for business because while the help with business rates will be welcomed and has been a big issue for many of our hospitality businesses in particular, the rise in National Insurance contributions for people who set themselves up in business could be seen as a tax on entrepreneurship and will hit Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly harder because over 20% of our workforce is self-employed. SME owner-managers will also be hit by reform to dividend allowances.
“The investment in research and technical education, including new T-Levels and more training and work placements for young people, is very welcome especially given our focus on growing our digital and advanced engineering sectors.
“And there is investment in pilot projects for lifelong learning, which is important in upskilling our current workforce. Funding for research into new technologies like biotech, energy storage and 5G all present opportunities for some of our key sectors and we look forward to seeing more details.
“Adult social care remains a huge issue in Cornwall because of our ageing population and while the extra £2 billion will be welcome it is spread over three years and is less than many had called for.”
Truro and Penwith College broadly welcomed the announcement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond MP that the Government is to expand vocational and technical post-16 education.
The additional funding will largely cover the cost of increasing teaching hours across 15, new training routes from September 2019.
The new ‘T-Level’ routes have been introduced to boost skills and training in areas including creative and design, digital, health, science, business and administration and are seen by the Government as key to helping the country shift its workplace priorities towards a post-Brexit economy in which existing skills shortages and gaps could worsen.
Principal David Walrond said: “Some of the UK’s key problems of low productivity and widening skills gaps and shortages are writ very large in Cornwall. Addressing them, through targeted investment, is crucial to Cornwall’s socio-economic future. The Chancellor’s announcement today of investment in skills training for 16-19 year olds will be even more welcome and significant if it proves to be a turning point.”
David Beaumont, regional director for SME Banking in the South West at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, added: “Many companies in the south west will also welcome the Government’s commitment to boosting skills among 16- to 19-year-olds through the creation of ‘T-levels’ and a new £500 million per-year investment.
“Businesses have struggled to find people with the right training and skills, with our latest Business in Britain report showing almost a third of south west firms that recruited in the second half of 2016 had difficulty finding staff with appropriate skills.”
Cornwall Council cautiously welcomed the news of support for businesses affected by the revaluation of business rates.
The Council’s cabinet member for resources, Adam Paynter, said: “We know that many small businesses have been very worried about the impact of the changes to business rates on their future viability and I am pleased that the Chancellor has listened to these concerns.
“However we know that the devil is in the detail and we will now be seeking clarity from the Government to ensure that rural areas see a fair share of this money.”