Lincs County Council has welcomed today’s (Wednesday 18th March) Budget announcement with initiatives which will benefit businesses and residents across the county.
Coun Colin Davie, Executive Councillor for Economic Development, said: “George Osborne’s final budget of this Parliament clearly indicates the progress that has been made in repairing the national economic picture.”
“There are many measures in it which clearly benefit our small businesses, low paid workers and countless thousands of our residents who are savers and who will now benefit from changes to the tax regime.”
“Support for apprenticeships and in helping young people get on the housing ladder will in my mind have an enormous impact for Lincolnshire, as will changes to the tax regime in supporting farming.”
“At a time when growth is accelerating and unemployment is falling with real jobs been created across our county we are truly at a crossroads compared to the dark days that existed prior to the last election.”
Analysis highlights a number of areas in which Lincolnshire will benefit:
Growth is forecast to increase – this mirrors the council’s own findings which show that businesses are confident about the next twelve months (66 per cent of greater Lincolnshire businesses expect their turnover to increase in next 12 months).
Unemployment continues to fall - The claimant rate is currently 30 per cent lower than it was this time last year, with total numbers of claimants showing signs of returning to similar levels to those seen prior to the economic downturn and recessionary period. It is the lowest total since 2008.
The increase in wage for apprenticeships is to be welcomed - The council expects the greater Lincolnshire economy to create 100,000 new jobs by 2022 – often at highly skilled levels. Apprenticeships are a very effective way of providing people for those jobs and with those skills. The GLLEP expects to invest more than £500,000 of EU funding into promoting apprenticeships in the next 12 months. The proposed Apprenticeship Voucher will help to strengthen the relationship between employers and training providers – something that the Lincolnshire and Rutland Employment and Skills Board have been championing for some time now.
Further tax incentives for research and development will help businesses to innovate - 38 per cent of greater Lincolnshire businesses introduced an improved product or service in the last 12 months. The Greater Lincolnshire Growth Hub, which receives government and county council financial support, will have a specific objective of signposting businesses to finance for investment – and the council will include information on this tax benefit within its programme.
The council is pleased to see proposals for strengthening the Northern Powerhouse. The Treasury has identified the benefits of having technology hubs – this is something it has already invested in Lincolnshire (Boston, Mablethorpe, Louth, Horncastle, and Lincoln) and is already benefitting small businesses. Support for the Humber enterprise zone will have a wide reaching benefit on businesses and communities in the area.
The proposals for investment in an agricultural innovation centre in East Anglia are also welcome. The council is in active discussion with the New Anglia LEP about partnership projects that will share their agri-tech skills and knowledge with businesses and vice versa.
Because the important logistics sector, based around food production sector in particular, experiences skills shortages, the council welcomes the proposed investigation into how to accelerate activity to address this skills shortage. This was debated at a recent county council Economic Scrutiny Committee.
Government will double export promotion activity to China. The county council has recently opened up discussions about a relationship with Hunan Province, the province that CSR, the parent company of Dynex, is based in and 13 per cent of the area’s businesses export, of those that do export, more than half expect to increase levels of export next year.
New financial instruments will help businesses to invest - 84 per cent of businesses expect to invest over the next two years, but businesses often quote a lack of access to capital as a barrier to their business growth. More government support will help to break through that difficulty between a desire to invest but a difficulty in accessing finance.
The devolution of skills policy to Mayor of London, and business rates retention in Greater Manchester and Peterborough/Cambridge shows that government recognises the importance of local economic development. The LEP and county council will be working with government to make the case for similar arrangements here – using local knowledge and strong partnerships to deliver activity that will be very effective to all areas in the county.
The freeze in fuel duty will encourage more visits within the UK. Day breaks, short breaks, and national visitors are an important part of the tourism industry. This will make it cheaper for them to visit the county and will help the council to meet its ambition of doubling the value of the tourism sector in 20 years. The council will, in turn, be supporting that ambition through new attractions like Lincoln Castle and through training, welcome host, and information schemes.
The council is already developing a detailed case for government investment in better mobile phone infrastructure. This will help businesses to use mobile apps to good effect. A strong case will be made to attract some of the £600m that the Chancellor has announced today.
West Lindsey Housing Zone has been confirmed in the budget, and this will help us to meet ambitious targets for home building which in turn will secure the area’s long term economic growth.
And finally, beer duty has been reduced – now a bottle of Batemans’ “Law of the Land” beer, brewed to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and investments in Lincoln Castle, will be cheaper.