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Richard Marsh, Exeter Chamber CEO responds to the Autumn Statement

Photo credit: Dirty Martini

“The Chancellor delivered as expected a statement to ‘balance the books’. I am encouraged to see that there is some support of business, but there is no doubt that we are in troublesome times as Mr Hunt confirmed we are now officially in a recession.

“Understandably and importantly, his focus is to provide support for the most vulnerable in society. But as CEO of Exeter Chamber, I was disappointed that not more was being done by the Government to support businesses NOW.

“The rise in the national living wage will be welcomed by employees, but the 9.7% increase will have a detrimental effect on small businesses as they continue to struggle with the rising energy costs, especially during the winter months.  I can see this may result in job losses and add to the already expected unemployment rise from 3.6% today to 4.9% in 2024 before falling to 4.1%.

“£13.6 billion of support for businesses over the next 5 years is certainly an impressive headline figure provided by the Chancellor. The Treasury confirmed that as a result of the package, the total increase in business rates bills will be less than 1%, compared to over 20% without intervention. 

“The retail, hospitality and leisure sectors were on the brink of a bounce back, but with real household disposable income (RHDI) per person expected to fall by 4.3% in 2022-23 and 2.8% in 2023-24, there is going to be little money to spend on weekend shopping trips, dining out or trips to the theatre, and this could be catastrophic to these sectors once again. I hope that the increase in relief for retail, hospitality and leisure has not come too little too late.

“Our members are increasingly becoming concerned about how they are going to pay their energy bills once the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme ends on 31 March 2023. We urge central government to provide clear and concise information on the ‘new targeted approach to support businesses from next April.’

“I was encouraged to hear that major infrastructure project Sizewell C will proceed and that HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail have not been subject to cuts. These projects are vital to boost our economies, and essential to our national infrastructure. It is very disappointing however to not hear more support for renewables.

“I completely support the statement from the BCC Director General, Shevaun Haviland where he states: “The Government must do more to improve conditions for businesses to invest and grow, otherwise we will be starting from a weak base to power our recovery once global economic conditions stabilise.”

“Exeter Chamber is here for our members, if you need support, please do get in touch, and we’ll connect you with the relevant businesses and organisations. We have ridden the recession storm in the past, and we will do it again.”

Richard Marsh

CEO Exeter Chamber