Calls for more support for Shropshire businesses as spring statement looms

Mandy Thorn MBE, Chair of the Marches Local Business Partnership

Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, fears that some businesses will not survive without government intervention as they continue to be hit by rising wage and energy costs as well as staff and skills shortages .

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak prepares to deliver his highly anticipated spring statement tomorrow.

Ms Thorn said: “Businesses were just getting back on their feet after the worst of the pandemic when they were hit with a host of new challenges, and in Shropshire that includes the devastation caused by the recent floods.

“They are facing rising labor costs, staff and skills shortages, supply chain issues and the impact of an expected huge increase in energy bills – some of these companies are not will not survive without government intervention.

“We hope the Chancellor will heed the combined call from business organizations across the UK and take urgent action not only to address the issue of energy costs, which will impact not only industry but also households in the region.

“One such action could be to look at how companies can be supported to introduce low carbon programs and energy efficiency measures which would also help reduce our reliance on imported fuel in the longer term.

“Our business support service, the Marches Growth Hub, urges businesses to seek out available funding to help them survive and thrive, with grants and loans on offer including energy efficiency assistance and we see a growing number of companies seeking this help. .”

Seb Slater, Executive Director of Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID), said: “These are uncertain times globally, we are still emerging from the pandemic so any direct support offered to businesses is welcome.

“From a retail and hospitality perspective, the business rate discounts and VAT reductions have been extremely popular with businesses in Shrewsbury over the past year, and we hope these programs may be extended.

“As it stands, VAT for hotel businesses is reduced to 12.5%, but this is due to end in April, so we would like to see the VAT relief extended to help support our economy of visitors during the summer.

“We would also welcome any action to manage the rising cost of living, so that people continue to have money in their pockets to spend with local businesses.”

Gary Seale, MD of iDry, the company behind the new body drying technology, is calling for lower fuel taxes.

“The government is doing pretty well with the price hike. It was £1.80 at the last garage I went to, so exclude the VAT and it’s down to £1.50. Take the tax off the fuel from 57.95p and it is down to 92p, which is much more acceptable to motorists and consumers.

“Instead, the exorbitant costs are having a negative impact on the supply chain and consumers and how long can we all bear this. It’s almost like the powers that be are looking to make hay, before to lose £23bn a year in fuel tax revenue alone when electrification kicks in.

“In more positive steps that Rishi might take, I would like to see some form of encouragement to invest. If the UK Bank could offer 2.5% ‘bounce back’ loans during the pandemic, why not extend this to corporates? who can demonstrate they need financing to grow, create jobs and trade internationally.

“This could help SMEs bring new technologies to market faster while making them more efficient and competitive.”

Brian Evans, managing partner of law firm Lanyon Bowdler, said: “I would like to see the Chancellor take action to ease the pain that businesses and consumers will suffer from rising energy prices and inflationary pressures.

“We had already seen significant increases in energy prices, and the conflict in Ukraine means that prices are in all likelihood going to rise further and stay higher for longer.

“This, coupled with other inflationary pressures, is going to really put a strain on us all. The National Insurance rate hike was announced at a time when things looked very different, and I would like to see the Chancellor delay this augmentation.

“Reducing VAT and duties on fuel and energy costs for businesses as well as consumers will help reduce costs for businesses and slow the rise in the cost of living.”