Alistair Darling’s pre-election budget is good news for small and medium sized businesses across the Midlands, according to the chairman of a 130-year-old Birmingham engineering firm.
Russell Luckock, the 75-year-old chairman of A.E. Harris, which was founded in Birmingham in 1880 by Mr Luckock’s great-grandfather, said the measures announced by the Chancellor were encouraging for businesses.
He added: “If you take this budget at face value, this is good news for medium sized and small businesses.
Mr Luckock, whose family’s pressworks is still based in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, said: “There were some very encouraging pieces of news. One of the highlights is the plan to pump £2.5billion into small and medium sized businesses, which is very welcome. The plans to award more government contracts to smaller UK firms is also very welcome.
“From a manufacturing perspective, and speaking as a manufacturer, I am pleased to hear that £270 million will be invested in higher education, coupled with an emphasis on mathematics qualifications.
“This is so important for this country and I think it will be far more useful than courses in media studies and the like.
“The planned business rate cuts, the investment in off-shore wind farms and investment in the roads will also be good for the manufacturing sector.
“I am just pleased that I am not a cider maker. As it stands, this is not a bad budget, but of course it could all change if the Conservatives come into power, or if there is a hung parliament.
“Whatever happens I think we have a major problem in this country with our debts. The new government will have to get a grip of the situation.
“The stamp duty changes should also help people to get onto the property ladder, but I think very few first time buyers will be able to afford a £250,000 property anyway. The real big issue still lies with the banks.
“I have been talking to my customers up and down the country. The biggest complaint is that banks are still not lending. The pre-announcement to this budget was Alistair Darling saying that they would be telling RBS and Lloyds that more money needs to be lent.
“But we heard all this back in November 2008 when Mandelson and Gordon Brown said the same thing, but nothing has changed. If you are lucky enough to get past the front door of the bank, they are offering very high rates, stiff arrangement fees and they are demanding deeds to the house if you are a director.
“The bankers have the power. They are here today and they will be here tomorrow. That can’t be said of governments.”