CBI adds voice to calls for fair Budget treatment in East

The Confederation of British Industry has backed Huntingdonshire business leaders’ call for the region not to be singled out by the new Government for second-class treatment in the Budget.

THE employers’ organisation, the Confederation of British Industry, has backed Huntingdonshire business leaders’ call for the region not to be singled out by the new Government for second-class treatment in the Budget.

Last week, John Bridge, chief executive of Huntingdonshire Chamber of Commerce, described the decision not to give National Insurance contribution relief to job-creating small firms in the area as ‘a kick in the teeth’.

Now Steve Sharratt, chairman of the Eastern Region CBI, has accused the new coalition government of ‘sidelining’ the East of England.

They are furious that plans to relieve small employers of NI contributions for newly-created jobs will not apply in the East.

Mr Bridge said this week that MPs Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) and Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire) had promised to take the matter with fellow-Ministers.

“It’s all about investing in success,” he said. “In the North [where the relief will apply] they are still totally reliant on the public sector. If they applied this in the East it would give people a real incentive.

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“It’s the wrong way round. If we create the recovery here in the East, the North will gain from that.”

Mr Sharratt told 150 guests at the CBI’s annual Summer Dinner in Cambridge: “We are in very real danger of faring badly under the new Coalition – which promises so much, but not apparently to the East of England.

“This region has been specifically excluded from the new business/new jobs incentive announced in last week’s Budget, and we have seen comments attributed to Vince Cable [the Business Secretary] that the East of England doesn’t need any money or any regional infrastructure. Instead, any available cash should go North.

“This ignores the severe impact of the recession here in the East. In the year to March, we have had the largest contraction in employment of any of the English regions. Long-term unemployment has quadrupled as a result of the recession, with 194,000 people unemployed here. That’s 60 per cent more in absolute terms than in the North East,” he added.

“We fully support the need to attack the massive public sector deficit. Everyone, in every business, every organization and in every region has a vital part to play in helping recovery. But I believe that our contribution must be fair and proportionate.

“It’s simply not fair to take most or all of our funding and move it northwards. Neither is it fair to dismantle the structure we have here that supports our �110 billion regional economy which sends a vital �6 billion a year to the Treasury. Surely, this is not the way to treat a regional economy that is working hard to turn things round, to create new jobs and to give the 450,000 businesses located here a chance to compete and win the global marketplace.

“Instead, the new Coalition, which tells us that ‘we are all in this together’, is not talking to us about the future of our region, so it looks like we are going to get a lot of the pain, and none of the gain.

“Treating us fairly will mean that we will continue to grow; we will continue to be a positive contributor to UK plc; and we will continue to help those areas of the country that need help the most,” Mr Sharratt said.