Autumn Statement 2023: regional business reaction

The 2023 Autumn Statement (Credit: Kirsty O'Connor / HM Treasury)

Business owners across the East Midlands have been speaking to about Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement.

Bilal Ahmed, finance manager at Octavian Group, said: “The National Minimum Wage is a vital policy that ensures workers are paid fairly and can afford a decent standard of living.

“With inflation at 5.6% in October, we are very much aware that the underlying inflation is still much higher than 5.6%.

“Octavian Group welcomes the announcement by the Chancellor that the National Living Wage will rise to at least £11.44 an hour from April 2024, which is a significant boost for the UK’s hourly paid workers. This increase will benefit 200 Octavian employees directly, who will see their annual earnings rise. This will also help reduce poverty, inequality, and insecurity in our society.

“Everyone at Octavian Group commends the Government for its commitment to end low pay and support hard-working families.”

Neil Shaw, director at Castle Donington-based True MSP, said: “I think that Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement talks of a growing economy and looks to put solid plans in place to help further strengthen the economy.

“The £50m to be spent over the next two years to increase the number of apprentices is great to see. We have taken on a total of nine apprentices over the last six years and they have been critical to the growth of our business, helping us grow quickly by employing people who have passion for our industry that we would not usually have access to.

“Mr Hunt also spoke about increases in pension contributions, universal credit, and 450m to be allocated to local authorities for housing, which are all positive steps but not something that directly benefits most business.

“The most exciting part for me was his announcement to spend £500m over the next two years to make the UK an ‘AI powerhouse’. While this may be a scary topic for some, being at the cutting edge of AI is vital and will help keep the UK as one of the top technology super powers.”

James Baker, managing director at Derby based chartered surveyors, Invise, said: “Regarding the planning reforms mentioned – in theory providing a full refund where the local authority planning department doesn’t meet deadlines sounds good. Practically though, that surely means employing more planning officers to hit deadlines, no mention of how the government intends to do that.

“The National Insurance cut from 12 to 10%; this is clearly positive, as a small business owner I will be interested to see more detail.

“I had hoped to hear some funding may be available for RAAC and it is disappointing to not hear anything about how these issues might be funded.

“Overall I think it was pretty underwhelming. I’ll certainly be looking at the details over the next few days to understand the real impact. There doesn’t seem to be much that will really be positive for us as a small business.”

Ian Hodgkinson, managing director at Pride Park-based Hodgkinson Builders, said: “It sounds like the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement addresses crucial aspects like apprenticeships, funding for business, and tackling the housing crisis through streamlined planning processes.

“The focus on additional funding and addressing under-resourced councils is a positive step toward fostering economic growth and resolving housing challenges.

“Let’s hope these measures contribute to meaningful progress.”