28th October 2021

Following the Chancellor’s UK Autumn Budget announcement this week, Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said:

“Businesses this week will be left disappointed and frustrated that the Chancellor has missed an opportunity to tackle the significant issues they face. Issues such as supply chain problems, skills shortages, and rising cost pressures particularly in energy.

“Whilst the fuel duty rise has been scrapped, which is welcome news, there was nothing for businesses in this budget to help offset the rising costs of gas and electricity which is threatening business recovery and hitting our local businesses hard. Along with our Scottish Chambers of Commerce colleagues, we have been calling for a SME Energy Price Cap.

“Whilst the Scale-up Visa may help some businesses, it will do little to help sectors such as hospitality, tourism, food and drink and agricultural. Businesses need a UK immigration policy which better aligns with the economic needs of the whole of the UK and is flexible enough to address the existing skills shortages across multiple industries.

“We are also disappointed to see there was no mention of VAT in relation to hospitality and tourism. There is real concern about VAT returning to 20% in March ahead of a new season. This sector has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic and is suffering from a range of issues. We have long called for a reduction in VAT on this sector to bring the UK in line with European counterparts.

“As always with these announcements, there is little detail, and we are keen to understand how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will work and help regions such as ours. The North Highlands has had significant EU funds in the past for various projects and infrastructure and we are keen to understand how this gap will be plugged. The UK’s track record with the Levelling up Fund and the still to be announced UK Community Renewal Fund, leaves a lot to be desired and we will be campaigning with colleagues to get more clarity.”

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