Growth and jobs top of Budget wish list for Plymouth businesses
PLYMOUTH business figures will be trawling through the fine print of today's Budget to see if it can help grow the city's economy and create jobs.
With fears of a triple-dip recession still in evidence, concerns about the future of the eurozone persisting, a question-mark next to the implications of the UK's credit rating downgrade and growing debate about the Government's austerity drive, there can rarely have been a more pressure on a Chancellor to deliver.
And while city business folk are, as expected, looking at a broad and diverse wish-list, it all boiled down to a plea for Mr Osborne to promote growth.
For Professor Julian Beer, Plymouth University's Pro Vice-Chancellor (Regional Enterprise), today's announcement needed to be all about research-and-development and investment.
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"There needs to be incentives for businesses," he said. "There are a lot that are in a good place with money in the bank and busting to expand. There are those that could develop if there were inducements to do so. And there are those that have the appetite and potential to grow but lack the cash.
"So there should be incentives for those that can grow, research-and-development credits for instance. That would push things in the right direction."
He said firms also need access to finance, so they can employ, and said: "To get that dual affect I'm hoping to see creativity in terms of financial incentives and research and development breaks."
His wishes were echoed by Steve Gerry, secretary and treasurer at Plymouth Manufacturers' Group, who also called for research-and-development tax credits and more schemes such as the Patent Box tax break for inventors.
Cate Taynton, project manager at Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, wants the Chancellor to look at skills funding. "We would like to see more employer ownership of skills and skills funding," she said.
"So money the Government puts into skills training it passed to employers to decide how best that should be spent. For example in the marine sector. We want to be competing globally, and do, but want to make Plymouth a global centre of excellence."
Yvette Benn, a partner at Bretonside's Woollcombe Yonge Solicitors, wants the property market invigorated, and said: "We support homebuyers and understand the needs of first time buyers. The First Time Buyer Stamp Duty Land Tax relief was an excellent initiative introduced by the Government to alleviate some of the expense associated for first time buyers.
"It finished in March 2012, and many first time buyers have since experienced the 'pinch'. It would be great to see this relief re-introduced."
Adam Spiers, a director of the Plymouth-based Michael Spiers Jewellers group, had hopes for help for the high street.
"Last March the Government announced its £10million High Street Innovation Fund to make 'high streets of the future the hub of the community'," he said. "We'd welcome further initiatives in this Budget to achieve this aim. The South West needs and deserves ongoing support for retailers in city and town centres, making them desirable places to visit and filling empty shops."
Jon Rawley, Plymouth area manager at the Skipton Building Society called for an extension to the Funding for Lending scheme, and help for savers.
"With Funding for Lending we have 18 months to draw it down, then lend it, and pay it back in four years," he said. "Either extend the payback period or have Funding for Lending part two.
"The other side is savers. Rates are low and will stay low while there's access to cheap money. It's about time the Government did something about cash ISA limits, which are capped at just off £5,600. I'd like to push it to match the equity limit of £11,000. There's no incentive to save at the moment."
Alex Smith, who runs TaxAssist Accountants in Plymouth, said: "Small businesses across Plymouth could be given a vital boost with a freeze on business rates.
"We'd also like to see the Chancellor increase the VAT registration threshold and widen the Employers National Insurance Contributions holiday for start-ups.
"These simple measures would provide significant savings for many small businesses across Plymouth allowing for more to survive and grow."
Steve Savage, of Plymouth's Sound Financial Management, said: "The Government has done little to encourage saving for old age yet are forcing employers to introduce compulsory enrolment into workplace pensions.
"We'd like to see more done to simplify pension rules, especially at retirement."
Helen McLaughlin, manager of Busy Bees nursery in Plymouth, said: "We'd welcome measures that empower parents to gain access to high-quality, affordable childcare.
"Steps such as making childcare tax deductible or giving extra help to low-earners would help enormously."
Budget roundup in tomorrow's Herald