Latest Updates From Surrey Chambers CEO – March 10th 2021
10th March 2021
Last week we received the Chancellor’s Budget providing businesses with more clarity for the year ahead. We were looking and lobbying for an extended furlough scheme, no immediate tax increases and some encouragement for businesses to invest. These three things were all addressed, which has created a slightly more positive vibe throughout the business community. However, the support laid out only works if the dates for opening the economy are adhered to and there is an effective test, trace and isolate system which fits hand in glove with the vaccination programme. It is fundamental to getting businesses open again, and to keeping them open in the months ahead.
Three BIG wins
The extension of the furlough scheme shows that the Chancellor has listened to our business communities. Many firms will be breathing a huge sigh of relief, particularly those businesses that are still closed or facing reduced demand due to Covid-19 restrictions. The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for companies across Surrey. This extension gives firms much more clarity on the way ahead and will allow many to plan with greater optimism and confidence as they look to restart and rebuild over the coming months.
We also welcomed the massive ‘super deduction’ investment incentive that the Chancellor has put in place for the next two years, providing significant tax breaks to those businesses that are able to invest and grow. While no business will relish paying higher rates of Corporation Tax in future, the time frame is manageable and is countered by the big new incentives for investment, lower rates for the smallest firms, and the extension of Coronavirus support measures in the short term.
Employers and testing
The great news over last weekend, to extend the employer testing availability for all businesses, not just those employing over 50 people, means we have the best possible chance of reaching the numbers necessary to return to some kind of normality. We have long argued that it is critical for workplace testing to be expanded to businesses of all sizes and that this service is in place for as long as is necessary.
We will be encouraging more businesses to sign up for free testing before the end of March deadline.
Other good news
The incentive of hiring apprentices has been made more attractive with the government doubling the payment to businesses hiring apprentices to £3,000, regardless of age, and a new programme will be introduced, allowing apprentices to work across multiple projects with different employers. VAT will remain at 5% for the hospitality, accommodation and tourism sector until the end of September, and will be increased to 12.5% until returning to 20% on 1 April 2022. Across all sectors, the business rate holiday has been extended by a further three months from next month.
Further support needed
Despite the widening of the self-employment support scheme, there are still many businesses and individuals who have, through no fault of their own, been unable to access any government support since the start of the pandemic. Many require help if they are to navigate the difficult few months ahead before the economy is able to reopen more fully. We would encourage them to talk to the Chamber as we have a number of events and programmes which could help them to get back on target.
International Women’s Day
Our week started very positively as we celebrated along with the rest of the World, the benefits of gender diversity in all walks of life. Joined by 4 inspiring speakers we particularly celebrated women in business and education and heard some really positive stories. However, there is still much to be done to champion the role of women in the workplace and our Business Women in Surrey group will continue to support this ambition.