Britain’s manufacturers have urged the Chancellor to send a powerful signal to business in his forthcoming budget, with a package of measures to show boosting productivity remains his fundamental economic goal.
Making the call ahead of a possible general election, EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, believes the growing intensity of competition from China, India, Central and Eastern Europe means it is vital that the business environment supports firms as they seek to move up the value chain. A powerful, integrated package of measures designed to boost skills and innovation would back companies in their fight to address this rising threat.
In addition, EEF also believes it is critical that cost pressures should be addressed, but that no risks should be taken with the public finances which might lead to any need for tax rises in the near future.
EEF Director General, Martin Temple, said:
“This Budget is coming at a critical time for manufacturers who are battling with rising costs across the board and great uncertainty in their major markets. The Chancellor could send a powerful signal that he recognises the pressures they are facing and is prepared to support their efforts to meet intensifying competition head on.”
In particular, the submission urges the Chancellor to address the sharply rising costs of energy by investigating the recent behaviour of gas prices and freezing and reviewing the Climate Change Levy. EEF also believes the UK should use its forthcoming Presidency of the EU to intensify pressure to accelerate liberalisation of energy markets in the rest of Europe.
EEF’s budget submission also called for the following positive measures:
The introduction of a capital credit for investment, including for leased assets.
A review of the level of the R&D tax credit and other factors that would raise the performance of medium-sized firms on R&D and innovation.
Measures to boost skills including funding for the removal of the age cap on modern apprenticeships.
Measures to ensure that the promised National Employer Training Programme delivers training that is driven by employer needs.
In the area of better regulation, an extension of the Vehicle Industry Policy and European Regulation (VIPER) initiative to other manufacturing sectors. (see notes to editors).
Publication of a timetable to implement the commitment in the last Budget to remove the burden of working families' tax credit.
The implementation of the findings of the Hampton Review.
Measures to ensure export support programmes do not narrow in focus on ‘new to export’ firms whilst ignoring the potential returns of ‘new to market’ firms who need support for new and high growth export markets.