Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget speech, Robert Lloyd Griffiths National Director of the Institute of Directors in Wales, said:
“This was a Budget for recovery and rightly so. Lives have been fundamentally altered over the last 12 months and it is the Chancellor’s job to protect jobs and keep businesses afloat if we are to recover from the damage that Covid-19 has caused.
“This Budget delivers a solid platform for many businesses to relaunch as the economy reopens with welcome news for Wales in the form of accelerated funding for the Swansea Bay, North-Wales and Mid-Wales City and Growth Deals which will enable projects to be delivered faster, creating jobs and supporting economic growth. Our contribution to Net Zero will be supported through £4.8m for the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub: a green hydrogen demonstration project which could create 30 new high-skilled green jobs in Anglesey, indirectly support 500 jobs, and bring further investment into the area. And, in addition, the Chancellor has confirmed up to £30m towards the Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Neath Port Talbot, alongside investment by the Welsh Government, which will see up to 120 skilled jobs at the new rail and infrastructure testing facility and showcase Wales as a hub for R&D investment and rail technology.
“The extension to the furlough scheme will provide a vital cushion to support jobs as restrictions unwind and firms begin the costly process of rescaling. Restart grants and ongoing business rates relief give a cashflow boost to many firms that will struggle to make full productive use of their properties as restrictions linger. Widening income support for the self-employed is a step forward, but the Chancellor missed a trick by not providing grants for company directors who continue to be left out in the cold.
“The Chancellor’s efforts to combine life support for the economy with measures to turbocharge growth is the right call. Vouchers for SMEs to invest in technology, and provisions for management training, will help address the UK’s longstanding productivity problems whilst also boosting businesses' ability to bounce back from the pandemic. The recovery loan package will offer a helping hand to many firms, but more needs to be done to catalyse equity investment in our cash-starved start-ups and scale-ups.
“Retraining and rehiring will be uplifted by reforms to the apprenticeship levy and further financial support for both apprenticeships and traineeships. An improved visa route for the high skilled will foster innovation, as will steps to review R&D tax credits.
“Of course, the Chancellor’s commitment to doing whatever it takes comes at a price and he is right that we cannot allow debt to keep rising. It’s a balancing act and we all have to play our part. The prospect of higher taxes will no doubt bite for many firms that are still tending to wounded balance sheets. Delaying and tiering the corporation tax rise is a pragmatic approach, though adjustments to the plan should remain on the table as a clearer picture of the recovery emerges.
“Overall there is much for businesses to get behind in this Budget, and the Treasury should remain prepared to extend support if the roadmap goes off course, whilst building on its stimulus package today to drive long-term growth well beyond our immediate recovery. The Chancellor has given us hope and optimism; giving businesses much needed certainty and the promise of a better future economy. Meanwhile, as signatories of the Armed Forces Covenant, I was particularly pleased to hear of the extra £10 million for mental health support for veterans. They’ve protected us and it’s our duty to make sure we protect them, now more than ever.”