Commenting on today’s Autumn Statement, Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:
“Business was looking for reassurance from the Chancellor at a time of considerable uncertainty and he has helped calm nerves with the right level of pre-Brexit tonic. He is walking a fiscal tightrope but his pragmatic statement provides enough stimulus in key areas vital to improving productivity, whilst holding back some fiscal firepower if, as the OBR suggests, the economy stutters.
“The Chancellor has also provided industry with a down payment on a modern industrial strategy. The boost to science and innovation is vital if we are to be at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, whilst the doubling of support for exports should grease the wheels for business in growing markets abroad. The Chancellor has also signalled a welcome recognition that our digital network and local roads are not fit for purpose and need major upgrade.
“From now on this should be the direction of travel for future statements and policy decisions, with government using the right levers to address productivity, regional growth and housing. A commitment to keep pushing on these priorities, whilst addressing past under-investment in infrastructure, will send out the right message to businesses here, and overseas, that Britain really is open for business post Brexit.”
On the boost for Innovation funding, Ms Lee Hopley, Chief Economist at EEF, said:
“Manufacturers are aiming for growth and innovation is their first strategy to achieve it. The Chancellor made a significant commitment to support innovation over the rest of this parliament, by committing to review the scope and extent of the R&D tax credit and ramping up spending on innovation support. Through this inevitable period of uncertainty, this is the right strategy to ensure that UK businesses will continue to innovate, and to do so in the UK.
Commenting on the Digital Network investment, Ms Lee Hopley, EEF Chief Economist, said:
“The government has seen the ‘light’ in backing a full fibre digital network right to the doors of businesses across the country. This will not only deliver on speeds but also resolve the issue of reliability, latency and resilience, while also future proofing a critical national infrastructure network.
“As manufacturers gear up to take advantage of the 4th Industrial Revolution, fibre to factory will be a core enabler of that investment. Today’s announcement should be seen as the start of that journey and it is encouraging to see government playing a far more active role in supporting the delivery of infrastructure in this commercial market.”
Commenting on the increased Roads funding, Chris Richards, Senior Business Environment Adviser at EEF, said:
“Extra funding for roads announced by the Chancellor has recognised the high return on investment of local road and transport schemes, with investment in new Pinch Point funding. The government should now cement their recognition of the importance of local schemes by wrapping future local road funding into the Roads Fund to ensure both national and local networks have the stability and funding certainty to fix the nations crumbling road networks.”
On the extension of the National Living Wage, Tim Thomas, EEF Head of Employment & Skills Policy said:
“The Low Pay Commission (LPC), has rightly taken the view, like other forecasters, that there are risks to wage growth over the coming year and has adjusted the trajectory of the National Living Wage accordingly. Increasing the Wage to just below the previous estimates is reflective of this. Today’s rate confirms that the LPC is sticking to the target to get NLW to 60% of earnings by 2020 which will give employers greater certainty around future rises.”
On Business Rates, Ms Lee Hopley, EEF Chief Economist, said:
“Including plant and machinery in the calculation of business rates represents a tax on productive investment that is out of step with international practice. The Chancellor’s lack of action on this issue represents another missed opportunity to support long-term capital investment and improve the attractiveness of the UK as a competitive location for manufacturing at a time when both are desperately needed.
“EEF will continue to push for this crucial change which will benefit every sector that finds its investments captured in the business rates system due to a historical quirk, rather than hard evidence or international best practice.”
On the funding for Management skills, Tim Thomas, EEF Head of Employment & Skills policy, said:
“With manufacturers predicting a continued rise in their demand for management and leadership skills, they will welcome the Chancellor’s emphasis on the need to improve these vital skills which will contribute so much to improving the UK’s productivity. This is especially important if we are to make the most of the fourth industrial revolution.”