• Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

North East Connected

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Business leaders in North East outline hopes for the Spring Budget

Pre-BudgetL-R: Lee Watson, tax partner at Clive Owen, Jamie Brown, CEO of Francis Brown, and Dr Dr Arnab Basu MBE, CEO of Kromek Group

With speculation mounting as to what measures Chancellor Jeremy Hunt may announce during this Wednesday’s (6th March) Spring Budget, a number of businesses and organisations operating in multiple sectors outline what they’d like to see included.

Lee Watson, tax partner at Clive Owen, which has offices in Darlington, Durham, Middlesbrough and York,  LLP: “The Budget presents a pivotal opportunity to bolster the UK’s business sector. A crucial step would be to adjust income tax thresholds upwards to mitigate fiscal drag, ensuring that individuals are not unduly penalised by inflation and can contribute more effectively to economic growth.

“Similarly, increasing VAT thresholds would provide much-needed relief for small and medium-sized enterprises, allowing them to invest and expand without the immediate pressure of higher tax burdens.

“Encouraging early retirees back through initiatives like ‘returnerships’ could significantly alleviate the current skills shortage, injecting experienced talent back into our economy.

“I would also like to see an more resources for HMRC to streamline tax collection and compliance, ensuring fairness and efficiency. Raising corporate tax thresholds would also incentivise investment and growth among businesses, while a delay in the introduction of Making Tax

Digital could provide companies with the breathing space needed to adapt to digital transitions without undue financial strain.

“Finally, modernising Inheritance Tax (IHT) would not only simplify a complex system but also make it more equitable, encouraging more people to invest in the future of their businesses and families.”

Jamie Brown, CEO of Stockton-on-Tees fabrication engineering company Francis Brown, said: “As a business that is deeply invested in innovation and growth, I’d like to see the Chancellor prioritise measures which support skills development.

“We need to create more opportunities to attract talent to an industry that is constantly evolving in response to the needs of multiple sectors, including construction, oil and gas and renewables.

“This requires investment in education and training, the creation of a more workable and dynamic apprenticeship programme, and enhanced research and development tax credits.

“Tax incentives or grants for those companies investing in ongoing training and development programmes for their employees will further support the process of upskilling existing staff and attracting new talent by creating additional opportunities for career advancement.”

Dr Arnab Basu MBE, CEO of Sedgefield-based Kromek Group plc: “The Chancellor should take this opportunity to deliver an agenda for growth; the UK economy is at best, stagnant, falling well behind many of our global peers.

“The potential of our innovation and technology sector, exemplified by companies at NETPark, needs to be unleashed. Ways to encourage long term investments (patient capital) in technology could be through capital gain tax incentives, EIS or by increasing capital inflow to public markets through mechanisms such as increasing pension fund investment in UK companies.”

Bob Borthwick, a director of recycling specialists Scott Bros, which is based at Haverton Hill, Teesside,  said: “This budget is all about creating a positive mindset among voters ahead of a general election and, despite the lack of much fiscal wiggle room, there will be some tax giveaways for individuals.

“However, as a business at the forefront of expanding the circular economy, I urge the Chancellor to continue to back research and development initiatives in areas related to decarbonisation. In the transition to a low carbon economy, further tax breaks and incentives are needed to encourage more businesses to invest in recycling, waste reduction, and developing commercial applications for recycled materials rather than using up the world’s precious natural resources.”

David Land, chair of University Technical College (UTC) South Durham and trustee at the North East STEM Foundation, said: “Investing in education must be a top priority for the government in the upcoming Spring Budget.

“Recent funding allocations have failed to keep pace with the evolving needs of industry. Our educational infrastructure is woefully inadequate to meet the challenges of the 21st century. One of the major flaws in our system is its adherence to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which fails to recognise the diverse needs of students and demands of modern industry.

“The UTC network, comprising 44 institutions across England, is addressing this issue by delivering education tailored to the needs of industry, ensuring that students are equipped with the skills necessary for success in the workforce. In fact, UTCs deliver eight times the national average for students pursuing apprenticeships, highlighting their effectiveness in bridging the gap between education and industry.

“However, accessibility remains a challenge for many aspiring students. Transport links and associated costs deter students from attending UTCs, limiting opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is why I urge Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to allocate more funding to overcome these barriers and ensure that UTCs are accessible to all, regardless of socio-economic status.

“By improving funding for students aged 11 to 18 and supporting institutions like UTCs, we can build a brighter future for our youth.”