Business leaders from across the North East have given their verdict on the Chancellor’s Budget.

Rhiannon Bearne, Policy and Representation Director at the North East England Chamber of Commerce said: "The Budget covers some important policy territory for the North East. On childcare, support for older workers and devolution and enterprise zones, it appears the Chancellor has listened to many of our members’ calls. This is positive news for people living, working and earning in the North East.

“The announcement of two Investment Zones for the region is positive news and will complement existing and expanding devolution arrangements. Opportunities for local leaders and stakeholders to maximise the impact of these plans are welcome.

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“There were also positive announcements in the net zero space with initiatives to support carbon capture technology and modern nuclear energy, both areas in which Teesside has real strength.

“The Chamber’s asks on childcare have begun to be addressed, with interventions to address both supply and demand in relation to the childcare market. Helping more parents to access work will have a major productivity dividend. The government needs to make sure that childcare providers and schools have the support to cope with this demand.

“There were also some missed opportunities on tax deductions, and a lack of incentives to encourage businesses to invest in workforce development, notably freeing up the Apprenticeship Levy.

“In the run up to the Budget, our region spoke with one voice on critical issues like devolution, skills and childcare. It appears the Chancellor has listened.”

Simon Rowland, UK partner in the construction team at international law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, comments: "Whilst the last 18 months have seen extreme volatility in materials pricing and shortages which has caused pain for contractors and clients alike, the loss to the sector of qualified and unqualified labour has been a constant drain on the industry for a number of years.

The Northern Echo: Steve Hare, CEO of Newcastle-based SageSteve Hare, CEO of Newcastle-based Sage (Image: Sage)

“We welcome the Government's willingness to accept the Migration Advisory Committee's interim recommendations to add five key construction occupations to the Shortage Occupation List, which we hope will ease immediate pressures on an already strained sector. Obviously further work needs to be done in this area - but that is longer term requiring investment in apprentices, schools, and retraining bodies to make the construction industry a more attractive and diverse place to work."

Steve Hare, CEO of Newcastle-based Sage said: "We welcome the Chancellor's focus on innovation and investment in cutting-edge technology, as evidenced by the proposed new capital allowances regime. While the proposed reforms are a step in the right direction, we need to do more to ensure that technology is applied at scale.

"We need to see bold tax incentives for digital investment that will drive innovation and investment in cutting-edge technologies like AI and data-powered software. It's time for the UK to become an advanced digital economy, and we need to take aggressive steps to make it happen”.

At an event held at Active Financial Planners in Stockton, Graham Robb, managing partner at Recognition PR in Darlington summed it up by saying: “It was a sensible and sober budget, but it also was determined and bold. Active campaigned strongly for reform in the pensions rules and you've got much more than you asked for, because you've got the ability to have no cap on the amount of money people can have in their pensions."

The Northern Echo: Plenty of notes being taken during the Active Financial eventPlenty of notes being taken during the Active Financial event (Image: Newsquest)

Harriet Spalding of Mandale Group said: “Interestingly, there was nothing really mentioned about business rates. I think it's something that needs to be tackled, and the death of the High Street needs to be tackled. I was hoping there'd be something more stringent on the big logistics companies like Google and Amazon who aren't paying relative business rates in comparison to high street shops. I think he's potentially missed an opportunity.

“The other thing, again, is the £80 million for investment zones, which is substantial. It's brilliant.”

Lee Bramley of the Endeavour Partnership said it was an ‘unspectacular’ Budget.

He added: “Any assistance or support that's offered is always helpful. I think he's done some good in restoring some of the damage caused by the last financial statement by the previous chancellor. In relation to the pension allowance it's interesting that it was widely speculated it would be raised by raised 1.8, but has been abolished completely. I think that's a helpful tax break for a small minority of very rich people.”

Host Karl Pemberton said: “Inflation coming down to 2.9 by the end of the year -  I think we would all take that, wouldn't we?  But the thing to realise is, clearly, that's not that costs are coming down, that's just the pace at which the going up is slowing. So we're not going to suddenly feel better off in our pockets.”

Matthew Bell, Commercial Partner at Northumberland-based land and estate experts George F. White, said: “The Chancellor has confirmed that the super deduction is coming to an end at the end of March, as well as the reversion of the Annual Investment Allowance from £1 million back to £200k. In place of this The Chancellor has approved an initial three year full expensing method for qualifying capital expenditure, hoping to roll this out permanently. This will not simply mean all capital expenditure qualifies, as it will still need to be correctly quantified by a specialist and correctly identified, but a full deduction will be permitted for this expenditure.

 “As always the devil is in the detail that we’ll receive later today, but at first glance this isn’t the support that the majority of businesses were hoping for.”

Anthony Andreasen, director at Gosforth-based RMT Accountants & Business Advisors, said: “Any steps to reduce the significant strain that has been placed on company finances by high inflation, rising energy costs and supply chain challenges will doubtless be welcomed by the region’s entrepreneurs and business owners.

The Northern Echo: A packed House of CommonsA packed House of Commons (Image: PA)

“While it’s disappointing that the corporate tax rate increase from 19% to 25% has been confirmed, Chancellor’s new full capital expensing system will give North East firms a greater range of options for making investments in technology, machinery and plant that could help them put expansion plans into action and realise more of their growth potential."

CEO of Durham tech advisors Waterstons, Michael Stirrup said: “The childcare extension is great news for us as a tech business to attract and encourage parents, but particularly female employees back and into work. Their skills and expertise are hugely valuable, and they should not be prevented from using them to help businesses grow, inspire others and create a dynamic and diverse workforce in a traditionally male sector.

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“At Waterstons innovation is vital to the development and growth of our clients’ businesses, and the news of an increased R&D credit comes as a huge boost for smaller & medium businesses, along with a heightened investment allowance for smaller businesses. This gives businesses the ability to innovate, adopt new technology and potentially break into new areas while also contributing to the wider economy."

Dr Andrew Jenkins, Founder and Managing Director of North Shields based Kinewell Energy, said: “Our North East Universities have the strongest team of researchers outside London with particular strength in the energy transition, coupled with the Offshore Renewable Energy and Digital Catapults, and with an energetic and capable cluster of rapidly growing SMEs such as ourselves – the North East is ideally placed to deliver on the Chancellor’s aims of the UK becoming a Science and Technology Superpower, extending our world leading technological position in offshore wind, through a new Investment Zone.”