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Autumn Budget Needs to Instil Confidence for Business, says Black Country Chamber

Corin CraneAhead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget tomorrow (22nd November), the Black Country Chamber of Commerce has identified three key strategic areas that have been highlighted by businesses from across the region.

In particular, the areas that the Chamber would like to see the government take bold action on relate to infrastructural development, investment in skills to enhance productivity, and increased clarity with regards to Brexit to help businesses deal with the challenges and opportunities it brings.

Transport infrastructure guarantees, with a particular focus on the Midlands Metro extension.

Recently, Black Country Chamber members met with Andrew Jones MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, at the University of Wolverhampton. The meeting focused on a range of businesses issues, but centrally on the improvement to local transport infrastructure through the Midlands Metro extension. Present were several Black Country businesses with a particular, vested interest in the improvement of the tram link, including intu Merry Hill and the Black Country Living Museum. All Local Authority leaders and business leaders who were present were hopeful of a positive announcement for the area from Chancellor Philip Hammond. These hopes were somewhat bolstered yesterday when the Prime Minister visited the region to deliver a keynote speech on the regions infrastructure, which included the announcement of a £250m project to extend the Midlands Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.

A clear commitment to Black Country businesses throughout Brexit Negotiations.

Black Country businesses have been consistent in their wish for greater clarity from government on the issue of British withdrawal from the European Union. There are a range of issues directly connected to Brexit that Black Country business are particularly concerned about, including: access to migrant labour force post-Brexit; the rights of EU workers currently working in the Black Country; what the future trading arrangement will look like with the EU for Black Country businesses; and how European supply chains can remain interconnected and strong.

Skills investment commitment and clarity.

The immediate and long-term future for Black Country businesses remains uncertain, with the need for greater investment in skills perhaps more crucial than ever. There are a range of skills issues that affect companies in the Black Country, ranging from clarity over changes to the technical education system and the introduction of T-Levels, as well as further clarity needed over the intricacies of the Apprenticeship Levy. There are also a range of sectors in the region that have particular fears with regards to skills shortages and gaps that may be amplified by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, including but not limited to health and social care, hospitality, manufacturing and logistics and supply chain.

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: “We fully welcome the expected announcements on the Metro Extension to Brierley Hill and this will be critical to opening up new employment and residential land, as well as moving workers and visitors across some of the most congested areas in the region; it’s also testament to the strong and effective partnership between business and politicians across the West Midlands. But, if the government is serious about addressing national productivity levels then the Midlands needs serious infrastructure investment beyond this.

“The Chancellor also needs to prove he is serious about devolution with more local control over powers and budgets for skills, which will be far better managed at a local level with proper input from local businesses about what their skills needs are. There’s also no hiding from Brexit and businesses need face-to-face support from experts to guide them through big decisions around workers, trade agreements and financing issues up to and beyond the day we withdraw. We can deal with this locally provided there are increases and not cuts in resource from the Department for International Trade”.

Join the Black Country Chamber’s Twitter live feed for the Autumn Budget on Wednesday 22nd November starting at 1pm by using the hashtag #BCCCbudget and tagging @BCCCmembers to get involved.

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