Dear Chancellor: Green growth tops region’s Budget wish list

Dear Chancellor: Green growth tops region’s Budget wish list

As the Chancellor prepares his Spring Budget, research from Grant Thornton UK LLP’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* reveals the policy areas that East of England mid-market business leaders hope to see prioritised in the announcement this week. 

The survey found that incentives to support low carbon business strategies ranked top of the East of England wish list – with over one-third choosing this as a top priority (44%). Measures to Level Up the economy, with more devolved powers across the regions, was the second top priority (38%).  

The rapid adoption of digital technology during the pandemic proved the benefits of digital transformation for business and built a new foundation for the usability and functionality of digital tools. The focus on this agenda remains, as measures to support digital transformation was tied as the second top priority for business leaders (38%).   

This focus on digital is also reflected in the market’s investment priorities, with 94% of the businesses surveyed planning to invest, either more or the same amount, into technology over the next six months.   

With erratic changes to tax policy over the last few months, following the mini-budget in September, certainty around future tax policy is also a high priority for the East of England market: 26% chose it as a top priority, while the same amount also identified simplification of the UK business tax system as a key focus area.   

Though the market continues to grapple with high prices, and businesses face the likely loss of energy support and the impending hike in corporation tax in April, the majority (90%) of the East of England mid-market respondents to the research are confident that the government will provide the necessary support for businesses in the Budget. 

James Brown, Managing Partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP in the East of England, said: “Incentives to support low carbon strategies came out as top of the list for the East of England, showing the sustainable ambition across the region. This and forthcoming Budgets must provide these if we want to support businesses in reaching net zero goals and taking a leading position in the low carbon industries of the future. 

 It’s clear too that businesses in the East of England want their fair share of Levelling Up funds – an agenda that can sometimes be incorrectly viewed as a policy just for the North. Levelling Up aims to create a more stable and productive environment for businesses to operate in but if the investment is not targeted effectively or accompanied by other measures to address underlying issues in the area, there is the potential for regional disparities to persist, or even worsen. Ultimately, the agenda’s success will depend on sustained political commitment and adequate resources, which may be difficult to secure in the face of competing demands on public finances and political priorities. 

“Adoption of digital technology was also key for our region. The pandemic accelerated a fundamental shift in how we work, underpinned by a greater reliance on technology and the need to ‘go digital’. In many cases, digital transformation led to improved efficiency, new routes to market and greater collaboration and innovation, as evidenced by the growing tech cluster around Cambridge. The mid-market now has the potential to build on, and accelerate, its digital journey and we need to ensure the momentum around this agenda does not slow.”