Improved Northern transport links among FSB's Autumn Statement wish list

Infrastructure, rate relief, taxes and improved broadband speeds addressed in submission to Government

FSB North East regional chairman Ted Salmon
FSB North East regional chairman Ted Salmon

Improving and diversifying transport connections between key Northern cities is crucial for rebalancing the economy by stimulating growth outside London and the South East, according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement on December 3, the organisation has called on the Chancellor to build on the ‘One North’ approach he recently endorsed.

As part of this, it says, serious consideration should be given to a tunnelled trans-Pennine road route to complement the proposed HS3 rail development.

On a general level, the FSB is requesting further investment in improving the UK road infrastructure, addressing bottlenecks in regional road networks.

Ted Salmon, regional chairman for the FSB in the North East, said: “Businesses want an Autumn Statement that delivers stability and certainty, and provides them with incentives to grow and create employment.

“That means investing in our infrastructure to match the world’s best, whether that be broadband, road, rail or air.

“Regional connectivity, particularly between our great cities in the North, must be improved if the region is to reach its full potential and challenge the economic prowess of London.

“We encourage the Chancellor to progress plans to set out how that vision might be fulfilled.”

In its submission, the FSB has also pointed out that, with continued uncertainty in the Eurozone and elsewhere, the priority for the Government must be to place the UK economy on a sound fiscal footing, securing its future growth and creating the best possible environment for firms to do business.

As part of this, the organisation says, the temporary doubling of the small business rates relief - due to end in March 2015 - should be extended, a commitment should be given to a fundamental reform of the rates system, and the valuation and appeals procedure should be changed to become less bureaucratic.

Also on the FSB’s agenda is broadband connectivity, with improved speeds being seen as a vital tool for encouraging growth.

The organisation says 94% of small business owners consider a reliable internet connection critical to the success of their business.

It is therefore calling on Government to commit to delivering a minimum ‘service level floor’ of 10 Mbps to all premises in the UK by 2018-19, rising to 100 Mbps by 2030.

Further simpler tax simplification that reduces deadweight costs on compliance and makes rules easier to understand and comply with is likewise on the FSB’s list of suggestions.

Mr Salmon said: “On taxes, businesses will be looking for measures to ease the cost of business rates, and a commitment to fundamental reform of the current, outdated system.

“To support business growth and reduce costs, further efforts to simplify our complex tax system should also form a central part of the Statement.

“The FSB has also long called for simplified and sharpened business support to match businesses’ growth ambitions. Unfortunately current schemes have not had the impact they should have, which is why the FSB has called for reforms.

“We are pleased the Government has reviewed the current offer this year, with a view to making it easier to access. We now look forward to seeing what progress has been made.”

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