North-east leaders disappointed by Darling
NORTH-EAST business leaders have been left disappointed by Alistair Darling’s Pre-Budget offering.
Local bosses say they are under-whelmed amid the feeling that the Chancellor has fallen squarely between two stools.
They wanted him to outline clear policies on how to stimulate a flagging economy and cut Britain’s higher-than-expected £178bn debt pile - and felt he failed on both counts.
Tony Sarginson, EEF North-east regional manager, summarised the general feeling when he described the PBR as “a bit disappointing”.
“It’s a holding budget, a negative one, almost,” he said. “We (local manufacturers) needed more specific help.”
The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) said the Chancellor’s “Bingo Budget” - a thinly veiled swipe at his under-whelming cut in bingo duty - fell short of more enterprising solutions that would tackle Britain’s debt and kick-start economic growth.
James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive, said: “This was very much a ‘borrow now, pay later’ announcement which, while welcome that the Chancellor hasn’t hit businesses with a wave of new taxes, it will still leave underlying nervousness about where the money will eventually be found.”
There were, however, some reasons to be cheerful: the small firms corporation tax rate freeze and extension of the Time To Pay scheme, which allows firms to spread their tax payments, were welcomed widely on Teesside.
Executives earning low six- figure salaries would also be relieved that the 50% tax rate threshold had not been lowered from £150,000 to £100,000 - as had been rumoured before yesterday.
But generally there was a distinct feeling that these small pleasures would be followed by much pain after the next election, when the hard slog of reducing national debt will begin in earnest.
Martin Barber, a tax partner in the Middlesbrough office of Vantis, chimed with Shadow chancellor George Osborne when he said: “This was a pre-election budget report.
“The first budget after the election is when people might feel the pain.”
There are rumours that VAT could eventually be hiked up to 20%, despite yesterday’s announcement of an increase back up to 17.5% from January 1.
A 20% rate has been described by Steve Cochrane as potentially “catastrophic” for Tees Valley retailers.
Mr Cochrane, owner of Middlesbrough designer fashion store Psyche, said: “It would hurt a lot of people very badly.