Budget - Rishi Sunak Chancellor - pic by Chris McAndrew, creative commons - grants

Tory MPs in Cheshire have welcomed the new Budget announcements – but business leaders have given it a mixed response.

Conservatives say Rishi Sunak’s Budget will help level up the North West, building on investments made in Crewe and Nantwich like the £22.9 million for a Town Deal and £14 million from the Future High Streets Fund.

And they claim people and businesses will benefit from a reduction in the Universal Credit taper rate, a rise in the National Living Wage to £9.50 an hour, a freeze in fuel and alcohol duty, and cuts to business rates, new tax reliefs, and record spending on infrastructure and R&D.

But business leaders in the county say the measures announced do not go far enough to help small businesses recover from the pandemic.

Crewe and Nantwich MP Kieran Mullan said: “This Budget will make a real difference to people in Crewe & Nantwich, helping working families with the cost of living and rewarding people who work with more money in their pockets if they work and earn more and rely less on benefits.

“New diagnostic centres will bring down waiting times across the region and cuts to business rates for many high street businesses is going to help our town centres and high streets recover.

“I know people will also welcome the extra investment in local roads for tackling pot holes and patch work.

“The £5 billion for gigabit broadband will also help families and businesses that I know struggle with internet access locally.

“But be in no doubt, public finances remain very challenging. We have built up an enormous debt that will have to be paid back.

“People know that the easy answer of just taxing well off people more isn’t credible.

“They already pay for an enormous share of our public services. We all have a part to play.”

Edward Timpson, MP for Eddisbury, added: “These are difficult times, and I know that many people are worried about the weeks and months ahead.

“This Budget will make a real difference to people in Cheshire—helping working families with the cost of living, supporting businesses with their recovery, and investing in our public services.

“Importantly, all of these spending commitments come on top of those already agreed, including £50,000 to develop plans to reopen Beeston Castle & Tarporley Station, £9 million to help upgrade Leighton Hospital’s A&E department, £2.36 million for Cheshire’s Rural Mobility Fund, and the £9.98 million Future High Streets Fund for Winsford.”

Yvette Hastings, Federation of Small Businesses Area Leader for Cheshire, welcomed some of the tax reforms and business rate reliefs announced.

But she argued they do not go far enough to drive small business recovery and growth.

“For example, the Chancellor has not expanded the National Insurance Employment Allowance as we requested, meaning that just 640,000 small businesses will receive full protection from the imminent Employer NI hike – a mere 10.5% of the small business community – which is compounded by an increase in dividends taxation.

“Getting skills right is critical for improving productivity, boosting businesses and the lives of our people.

“The announcements on expanding T-Levels, upgrading FE colleges and significantly increasing funding for apprenticeships placements are encouraging steps in the right direction, as is the new focus on improving numeracy.

“Many businesses are currently struggling to fill vacancies in sectors like hospitality and this will help by expanding the potential pool of those eligible.

“In short – some promising developments but, against a backdrop of spiralling costs, supply chain disruption and labour shortages, this Budget is not enough to meet the Government’s ambition for a high-growth, high-productivity, high-wage, low-tax economy.

“It is a missed opportunity to place small businesses front and centre of the Government’s recovery and growth plans.”

Trevor Brocklebank, Deputy Chair, Cheshire and Warrington LEP, added: “Our aim is to create the healthiest, most sustainable, inclusive and growing economy in the UK here in Cheshire and Warrington and level up for the benefit of everyone that lives here.

“Many people have been hit hard by the pandemic and an increase in funding for skills will hopefully help them to discover new opportunities in a fast-changing labour market, as well as support our levelling up ambitions.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we will continue to support local businesses and I’m sure many of them will welcome the support announced today, including those in the hospitality industry, as they look to recover from the impacts of the last 18 months.”

Comprehensive details on the Budget announcements are available on BBC business page here.

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