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Black Country Chamber of Commerce Responds to the Autumn Statement

The Black Country Chamber of Commerce has set out its aim to double the size of the Black Country economy in the next ten years. In order to achieve this it has targeted the doubling of the turnover of the Black Country’s businesses. This can be achieved through the development of export opportunities, better access to a skilled workforce, a rebalancing of the UK economy and through a 50 year investment in transport infrastructure. The investment in transport infrastructure will improve the local road and rail networks, improve access to and travelling on the motorway networks and implements an aviation strategy that promotes competition between regional airports.

In response to the Autumn Statement, Black Country Chamber of Commerce President, Ninder Johal said:

“Businesses will be pleased that the Chancellor has committed the government to a fundamental review of business rates. This iniquitous tax is sapping good companies' strength year after year, long before they make a single penny in profits. The review must deliver fundamental change to the business rates system. Tinkering at the edges is simply not acceptable when good companies have to scale back their growth ambitions because of out of control rates bills.

“The government has listened to our calls to improve conditions for business growth. However, the government must ensure that the positive proposals announced in the Autumn Statement do not get bogged down by short-term political thinking, Whitehall bureaucracy and trickle in the banking sector. We will be watching to ensure that the promises made become a reality and deliver real change for British business, despite the climate of fiscal constraint.

“Nevertheless, despite the positive rhetoric, businesses in the Industrial Heart of the UK deserve the same if not more than our peers in the North. The Black Country is the Industrial Heart that the Northern Powerhouse and the wealthy South East need for sustainable success. We welcome investment in road infrastructure but it is not enough. Evidence suggests that the UK economy reaps a £4 benefit for every £1 spent on major road schemes. This area is choking on poor local infrastructure, congested motorways and poor East West connections and this is deterring businesses from setting up and staying in the area.

“Although we welcome the increase in apprenticeship numbers and the incentives to hiring young people, without a serious commitment to addressing the skills shortfall particularly for smaller businesses, we risk not only widening the gap between education and employment but denying opportunities for growth amongst our best niche manufacturers. We want to see the government committing to the Industrial Heart as well as the Northern Powerhouse.”

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