Commenting on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement announced today (17 November), East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) chief executive Scott Knowles said: “This very much felt like an Autumn Statement designed to steady the ship and if that’s the case, the Chancellor has most likely achieved his objective.
“There wasn’t much for businesses to get excited about, but the main task was clearly to reassure the markets about the UK’s fiscal responsibility. It also signals an end to the chopping and changing of direction that we’ve seen so much in recent months, and it at least provides businesses some of the certainty that has been lacking and resulting in a significant loss of confidence.
“We also heard some big rhetoric around prioritising energy, infrastructure and innovation, but there wasn’t much new in these announcements to stir up much enthusiasm about real change being on the way. It was important, though, to stress that capital spending on projects such as HS2 will not be cut as investment is essential to long-term growth prospects.
“New Treasury figures show the East Midlands continues to receive the lowest public spending per head of population at £10,528 – compared to a UK average of £11,897 – and there are other big infrastructure projects, including Midland Main Line electrification, where we need to see progress as quickly as possible.
“There was a clear emphasis on the role of devolved powers to local areas throughout the Autumn Statement, which again highlights the opportunity presented to our region by establishing an East Midlands Mayoral Combined County Authority, which can create the political structures to improve decision-making on key issues, enhance our ability to attract investment and create an environment conducive to business growth.
“While today was always going to be about not rocking the boat, businesses will need to see a clear economic plan from Government ahead of the Spring Budget.
“Many of the questions businesses had before about how they will be supported to invest in skills and innovation remain. There is plenty more that can be done in ‘getting the basics right’, as the Chamber will outline in more detail as part of our Business Manifesto for Growth, which we will launch in Westminster next week.”