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Reaction to autumn budget

30 November 2011

A number of associations have given an immediate reaction to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

BSA Chief Executive Mark Fox said: “I welcome the Chancellor’s Statement with its emphasis on stability, debt reduction and infrastructure investment. Reducing public sector costs and improving value for money is clearly going to be the priority of government for the foreseeable future and there is much more that could be done in this area. I would encourage the government to look afresh at and speed up its programme of involving the private and voluntary sectors in the provision of public services. There are huge opportunities for government to improve value, protect the front-line and stimulate business growth and job creation.”

Meanwhile, the British Property Federation (BPF) say that, given the perilous state of public finances and the economic maelstrom at home and abroad, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement went about as far as the property industry could have reasonably hoped.

With many of the announcements widely trailed ahead of time, there were few surprises. Notable successes included the Chancellor dismissing the spectre of a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT), continuing to support reform of the planning system and moves to kick-start house building and mortgage lending – all of which the BPF has been encouraging the government to deliver.

While the National Infrastructure Plan, which supports the creation of 35 road and rail projects, was welcome, the BPF was left frustrated with government missing an opportunity to unleash enterprise zones to go for growth. As things stand, the zones are unlikely to attract developers to build within them without extending the capital allowances on offer. With many of the zones currently being empty plots of land, the need to incentivise developers to build is great.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “Given the financial climate, there were never going to be mass handouts and tax cuts in today’s Autumn Statement. That being said, there were several announcements that the property industry will want to throw its weight behind and support. Confirmation that the UK will not bow to EU pressure and implement a financial transactions tax is a welcome boon for the property industry, which unfairly found itself within scope.

“Some issues remain a work in progress – with many enterprise zones comprising empty plots of land, the government will need to consider how it plans to encourage developers to move in and build the buildings the new businesses will occupy. One way of attracting developers would be to allow them to claim capital allowances on development costs.

“Business rates remain a bone of contention. While we welcome the help being given to small businesses, and particularly retailers, it is disappointing that this has not been extended to those businesses and landlords who own empty shops, or indeed other business premises. Taxing empty property continues to suck investment out of our towns and cities."

Further reaction came from Sarah Thwaites, Deputy CEO of the Financial Skills Partnership. She said: “The economy was in desperate need of measures that would allow SMEs to forge ahead with their growth plans without the high risk previously associated with doing so. The business friendly announcements made today are a vital part of the solution and allow smaller firms to receive support to increase staff numbers.

“With unemployment still at record levels, the skills agenda must also remain at the forefront of the discussion. Businesses have received some of the news they have been looking for today in terms of a business rate holiday and a £1 billion business finance partnership. They must now move to address skills shortfalls that are developing in specific sectors. But more importantly, they must invest in the long term future of the companies by focusing on enhancing the skills of a new generation of workers.”

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