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Budget 2017: Birmingham business community reacts

A mixed bag of reactions from the city's business sector with rates review welcomed but concerns over 'missed opportunities'

Birmingham's business community has been reacting with a mix of trepidation and positivity to the 2017 Budget statement by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Among the measures announced were a review of business rates, a rise in National Insurance contributions for the self-employed and new vocational education qualifications called T-levels.

Click through for our handy at-a-glance guide

Here is a round up what Birmingham's business sector thinks of the reforms.

Rob Clifford, group commercial director of property specialist SDL Group, said: "We feel that the government has missed a huge opportunity to ease the pressure on small businesses.

"While we weren’t expecting changes to the previously announced business rate revaluation, and some new measures were announced, we had hoped that the Chancellor would raise the £12,000 rental value threshold to between £15,000 and £20,000.

"This would have offered some respite for many small businesses."

"Little more than sticking plasters" is how property consultancy JLL saw the Budget.

Lead director for the Midlands Ian Cornock said: "We're pleased to hear that local authorities would receive financial support to dilute the impact of business rate rises and that £23 million would be spent removing 'pinch-points' on crowded Midlands highways.

"The Chancellor had obviously listened to the business community's concerns about the impact of business rate rises (but) what's offered will provide no real comfort.

"Companies impacted by the new rates must wait until the 2022 revaluation before genuine changes can be made."

Clair Mowbray, chief executive of the new National College for High Speed Rail which opens in Birmingham in September, said: "With the Midlands Engine Strategy being published this week, it is crucial that young people are supported in gaining the skills they need to succeed and contribute towards the region’s growth.

"The new maintenance loans which will be available for learners from 2019/20 are a welcome boost, and will help us to attract a diverse range of learners into the sector - from school and college leavers, to those looking to upskill or retrain."

On vocational training reforms, Mathew Harvey, partner at law firm Weightmans in Birmingham, said: "Mr Hammond's overhaul of vocational training is a welcome sign that the Government is taking the challenge of tackling the skills gap faced by the UK's mid-sized firms seriously.

"We'd welcome a clear and definitive steer on how the new 'T-levels' will fit into the overall picture of vocational training post-16 years so that the country’s businesses can plan their future recruitment strategies."

Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, chairman of Warwick Manufacturing Group, hailed the £270 million fund to encourage trailblazers in artificial intelligence, robotics and electric cars.

"Britain can again be at the cutting edge of technology," he said.

"The automotive sector is booming and this country has always had a strong science and engineering base. I am sure the Midlands will benefit.

"Battery technology is forging ahead and will be further transformed over the next five years."

Phil Vernon, head of rating at PwC, said: "The Chancellor's announcement to introduce new business rates transitional arrangements is a welcome boost to small and medium sized business in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

"However, at some point over the next five years many businesses will bear the full brunt of the large jump in their rateable values.

"Many businesses in the West Midlands facing a reduction in business rates will also be breathing a sigh of relief as their expected decreases have not been further curtailed by this announcement."

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