Members of Birmingham's professional and financial services community are calling on the Chancellor to pay close attention to the needs of business when he announces his Budget plans today.
In what is likely to be the first set-piece of the election campaign, members of lobby groups Birmingham Forward and Birmingham Future are reminding Chancellor Gordon Brown that, while winning individuals' votes may be at the forefront of his mind, it is business that forms that foundation of the economy and its needs must not be overlooked.
Ronnie Bowker, managing partner at accountants Ernst & Young and board member of Birmingham Forward, said: " Businesses, especially smaller companies, are burdened by what seems like a never-ending flow of amended or new regulation.
"With the economy expected to fall short of the Chancellor's growth target in 2005, reducing the burden of red-tape would go some way towards redressing the balance, allowing businesses to allot more time to their core activities and encouraging growth.
"The issue is particularly acute in Birmingham due to the large number of SMEs in the area. As home to more than 30,000 SMEs, the city is well-placed to benefit from policies that encourage enterprise but, with limited resources an inherent feature of such companies, the impact of regulation is felt disproportionately."
With corporation tax receipts up more than 30 per cent in the last year and Mr Brown expected to use a further clampdown on tax avoidance measures to raise £4 billion over the next 12 months, Birmingham's business community is also calling on him to reduce the corporate tax burden, providing real incentives for investment in research and development instead. ..TEXT Mr Bowker continued: "With European Union rulings now impacting on UK tax systems, it is imperative that the Chancellor monitors the situation closely, acting to ensure UK businesses are not disadvantaged when compared to their overseas counterparts."
Neil Frankland, associate at law firm Mills & Reeve and chairman of Birmingham Future, agreed: "With the Chancellor widely expected to set out his plans to meet the challenges of the global economy, it is crucial that he puts provisions in place to help us develop skills across the board. ..TEXT "Our professional and financial services sector is already a strong player on the European stage but, with both China and India emerging as key players, investing in raising the skill-base of our workers will be fundamental to our ability to compete.
"Attracting the best upandcoming business brains to the city is also a crucial part of achieving this aim, placing the issue of affordable housing well and truly on our members' Budget agendas."
Malcolm Gloster, partnerin-charge at property consultants GVA Grimley and chairman of Birmingham Forward, will also be listening out for clarification of schemes mooted in previous Budgets during the Chancellor's speech. ..TEXT He said: "Budgets are traditionally a time for Government to acknowledge issues affecting members of the business community while presenting possible solutions or actions that could be taken. ..TEXT "Usually, this means the announcement of a consultation process or the publication of proposals, some of which are never heard of again."