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29 October 2018

Budget creating space for business confidence in Wales against backdrop of continued Brexit uncertainty

Commenting on the UK Government Budget, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Unit Chair, said:

This budget is one that seeks to be pro-business and tries to create the space for business confidence to increase, which has taken a significant hit in Wales as Brexit negotiations continue.

At such a critical time UK Government has a key role in providing small businesses with the certainty that they need to plan and take decisions for their business. Recent FSB research showed that Welsh firms were delaying decisions in some circumstances due to pervading uncertainty. Despite some significant missed opportunities, we welcome the moves taken by the Chancellor to provide stability through this budget.

On the North Wales Growth Deal

We welcome the news that the North Wales Growth Deal has been given a vote of confidence and £120 million in this budget. The deal is the culmination of years of work between businesses, local authorities and stakeholders who have worked together to ensure that the region is given the support it needs to deliver a thriving, ambitious economic deal.

There is now an urgent need to take this deal forward, to be signed by the partners involved so that it can deliver for the local economy.

We were also pleased to see a mention for the Mid Wales Growth Deal. This crucial economic region holds significant potential that could be unlocked by a targeted and successful growth deal, and we look forward to working alongside partners as the thinking behind this develops.

On Air Passenger Duty

We are disappointed that despite our call, UK Government have chosen not to devolve APD at a time when Wales will need to project itself in the world.

Devolving APD would help Cardiff Airport be seen as even more competitive on the international stage, developing new routes and helping to attract new business prospects.

Wales is a proud and outward facing nation, and we are dismayed that despite a very strong case and these powers being available in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the Chancellor has chosen not to move on this issue.

On Barnett Consequential for Welsh Government

In receiving £550 million in Barnett consequential from the announcements in the budget, FSB argues that Welsh Government should look to invest an appropriate amount of this in business rates relief – akin to the announcement that the Chancellor made for England in the budget – and on improving the state of our Welsh roads.

We need to see action from the UK Government and Welsh Government to support our Welsh towns and high streets. Upcoming FSB work on Welsh towns demonstrates that there are many ways in which high street businesses can be supported, with business rates being an important issue for many. We hope to see Welsh Government looking closely at how they can increase relief for small businesses, following on from the action taken by the Chancellor.

The cross-party Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee in the National Assembly for Wales has produced a report on the state of Welsh roads which identifies the need to urgently upgrade the state of our roads following evidence to the committee from FSB Wales.

Welsh Government should follow the Chancellor and announce money to improve upon the state of Welsh roads, so that businesses can rely on a good standard on the network irrespective of their location.

Severn Crossing Tolls

FSB has welcomed the news that the Severn Crossing tolls will be scrapped in December this year. Businesses will always seek opportunities wherever they are, and will be seeking to exploit new opportunities from the removal of the tolls when they come into force this year.

The Secretary of State for Wales has been an influential voice on this issue, and we hope that this is only the beginning of the Secretary of State working with FSB to create and maximise new opportunities for smaller firms as a result of the free crossing.