'Signs of levelling up' in Budget

Business chiefs say Budget announcements show signs of an attempt to level up the economy.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 4:25 pm
The North-South divide is real, say politicians
The North-South divide is real, say politicians

But they may not go far enough.

Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said “The budget was generally quite generous in aiming at ensuring a strong cyclical recovery from the pandemic, assuming no new worrying Covid-19 developments.

"That said, there was no silver bullet announced today from a levelling perspective but today’s budget shows signs that the Chancellor plans to keep his promise to deliver for the north.

"Hopefully moving the Treasury to Darlington and setting up the new Infrastructure Bank in Leeds should both act as spurs to further ‘Northshoring’, where businesses are incentivised to invest or relocate here, helping growth in the long-term.

“There is still a need to deliver a clear roadmap for rebalancing the economy through a northern economic recovery plan, investing in key sectors that will boost productivity here in line with the rest of the UK."

Stephen Church, EY’s North West Managing Partner, said: "Everyone was expecting this Budget to be a biggie, and the Chancellor did not disappoint. With a focus on COVID-19 support measures and recovery for businesses and individuals, the wider levelling up agenda could potentially have been put on the back burner but that was not the case.

"The North got a decent showing with the Chancellor’s big ticket announcements of the UK Investment Bank and Treasury North going to Leeds and Darlington respectively.

"The fact that Treasury is setting up camp in the North and that a significant new financial institution is being set up here will pay long-term dividends. The hope is that where the Treasury leads, others will follow, and we will see yet more of Whitehall decamp to other Northern towns and cities."

Meanwhile the Campaign for Pubs has responded to the “disappointing” budget for pubs, stating that it is not enough nor properly targeted to save many pubs and discriminates against the classic community local.

The Campaign for Pubs had specifically called on the Chancellor to ensure that all pubs, including thousands of traditional ‘wet-led’ pubs, would be supported through a VAT cut for all pub sales.

But they say this has been ignored and such pubs continue to be discriminated against, despite being part of the fabric of communities up and down the country and part of our cultural identity.

Instead, the Chancellor has just extended the VAT cut on food and overnight accommodation, which helps some pubs, but does nothing for many non-food pubs.