Chancellor Alistair Darling has been challenged by industry leaders to put business-friendly measures at the top of his agenda in his final budget before a General Election.
The Chancellor’s budget will be delivered on Wednesday, March 24, ahead of a General Election which must take place in the next two-and-a-half months.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said businesses wanted to see a range of measures but scrapping the proposed one per cent increase in employer National Insurance Contributions should be a priority.
That, along with making clear his plans to reduce the national deficit, were key for the future of economic growth.
She said: “This will clearly be a very big budget for the Chancellor and we can expect to see plenty of electioneering as we approach a General Election.
“But, at the heart of this budget – and indeed future fiscal policies – there has to be a plan to reduce the national debt and to allow businesses to grow and generate future wealth and employment.
“The NI increases are effectively a tax on jobs and every business I speak to cannot comprehend that the Government will go through with this at a time when creating jobs should be a priority.
“I would urge the Chancellor to look long and hard at this and, on a national level, we believe a one per cent increase in VAT would be a more sensible measure at this time and would raise a similar amount in taxation.
“Mr Darling must also deliver a credible plan to cut the national deficit in order to ensure our status on the international stage is not undermined.
“There needs to be a moratorium on all new legislation and taxation for the next three years because it costs businesses billions of pounds each year, with every new law or tax burden.
“At the same time we need investment in transport, digital and energy networks – which will underpin our future growth and competitiveness.
“It is absolutely vital that business is given the opportunity to lead the UK to an economic recovery that can be sustained.
“Clearly the public finances are not in a healthy enough state for the public sector to drive a growth in jobs and prosperity, so the private sector will have to do it – and must be given licence to.
“It is clearly an important budget for the Chancellor from a political point of view, but it is even more crucial for the health of the UK economy.”