Business leaders across the North East have been setting out some of the initiatives they would like to see Chancellor Rishi Sunak announce in this week’s Budget.

An increased focus on the Levelling Up agenda, a rise in the National Living Wage, more incentives to help businesses grow, and further investment into research and development were all on the wish list.

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive of the Middlesbrough-based Materials Processing Institute, said: “I’d like to see measures that will further hasten the adoption of renewable power, including wind and nuclear. This will help secure this country’s energy supplies and offer greater certainty for industry to be able to compete on the international stage.

“While investment in research and innovation continues to rise, the government must continue to build upon this to underpin the transformational work already underway to help it meet its commitment to net zero by 2050.  Part of this transformation needs to be an immediate commitment to investing in clean steel technology.

“Many industries continue to operate legacy systems and will need help to adopt the new technologies necessary to secure the future economic and manufacturing independence of this country.

“I would also welcome any increase to the National Living Wage that improve social inclusion and increases worker morale and health.”

Elizabeth Armstrong, Managing Director of Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington, said there had been rumours that the Chancellor would ‘simplifying’ rules on the already unpopular Inheritance Tax.

She said: “Relatively simple tweaks to the rules without necessarily altering the underlying tax rate have the potential to increase the government’s income significantly. Some reliefs such as business property relief may be tightened up to make it more difficult to qualify for the higher rates.

“Despite speculation about bringing Capital Gains Tax in line with income tax rates, this now seems less likely as it wouldn’t generate the kind of levels of tax that the government needs to raise.

“In light of substantial increases to Corporation Tax in 2023, I hope that the government will offer more incentives to help businesses grow such as the super deduction announced in March.”

Rosemary Du Rose, Chief Executive of Beyond Housing,  added: “As we emerge from the pandemic, it is vital that the government refocuses on emerging and pre-covid priorities.

“Levelling-up should take centre stage in the Chancellor’s statement on Wednesday, with acknowledgement needed those tackling inequalities in health and education, alongside economic growth, are fundamental to success.

“The last budgetary announcement before COP26 will give the clearest indication yet of how serious we are, as a country, about addressing the climate emergency. Some further clarity of last week’s green initiative announcements, explaining how we all, business and household alike, can access the resources we need to decarbonise our housing stock.”

Lee Watson, Tax Partner Clive Owen LLP, which has offices in Darlington, Durham and York, said: “There have been suggestions that there won’t be many more tax rises in the Budget. However, this could be just delaying the inevitable.

“I wouldn’t rule out future tax rises as this must still be a possibility. However, I don’t anticipate them being imminent and it’s likely that they will be introduced in a staged manner given the pressures already being faced by businesses post pandemic.

“It is anticipated to be a ‘technical’ budget, so the devil may well be in the detail and provide the Chancellor with the scope he needs to raise some much-needed revenue.”

“The recovery must be high on the Chancellor’s agenda, but I think it’s unlikely that there will be more measures like the capital allowances super deduction announced in the March Budget.

“However, the review and consultation into improving the UK’s R&D tax reliefs could result in enhancements to R&D reliefs – possibly with elevated rates of relief – which I’m sure would be well received.”

“I’m looking forward the Budget, as, for me, it marks the end of an extremely challenging period for business. Whatever happens, hopefully we can look forward to a more positive future with a higher degree of certainty.”

Martin Anderson, Chief Executive of Stockton-based Lemon Business Solutions, said: “As a socially conscious employer in the Tees Valley, I am particularly keen to see the Chancellor address the current National Living Wage rate and increase it closer to the Real Living Wage rate of £9.50 per hour across the UK. I would also like to see the scrapping of the age brackets, so a fair and equal wage is paid to everyone over the age of 18.

“I am particularly excited about the prospect of further investment in our local infrastructure, as part of the government’s levelling up agenda, so that people living and working in the Tees Valley have access to the same transport that their peers do in the southeast, creating opportunity and prosperity for all in our region.”