North East England Chamber of Commerce has urged the Chancellor to deliver a Budget that underpins stronger business confidence and creates a better environment for investment.
James Ramsbotham, Chamber Chief Executive said: “Our regional economy has the most to lose from a chaotic Brexit. We need fundamental economic and infrastructure issues to be addressed urgently through this Budget to put us in the best place to sustain economic growth.
“In the North East we need both a stronger voice at a national level and the ability to take far more decisions about our own economic future. This Budget has to reinforce the progress made through devolution settlements in Tees Valley and North of Tyne and recognise that our region has so much more to contribute to the national economy.”
In his letter to the Chancellor he also warned of the degradation of business services due to Local Authority funding cuts and said the Budget needed to tackle this issue to make local places attractive to investors.
He also set out demands to give more support for exporters. “North East England is a region with an enviable track record of exporting, but there are still too few companies trading internationally while potential new markets remain unexploited. To build on our export performance, there needs to be a sizable increase in the support available to help companies break into new overseas markets as Government prepares to leave the European Union.”
Transport priorities were also in the Chamber’s letter including the need for a significant overhaul of Treasury funding rules to encourage greater infrastructure investment in the North East. It said there is an urgent need for specific investment in East Coast Main Line to address current capacity issues and prepare for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, as well as support for improvements to Darlington and Middlesbrough stations.
He said: “Our region has historically been one of the biggest recipients of EU funding; based rightly on the need to address economic underperformance and higher levels of deprivation compared to elsewhere in the UK. We are therefore seeking a guarantee in this Budget that the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund will recognise the specific economic needs of regions such as ours.”
Employment and skills were on the Chamber’s list of demands which called for greater flexibility for Apprenticeship Levy payers to allow them to use their levy funds to take on more apprentices as well as a better system for SMEs to reduce complexity and allow them to pool resources.