South East: CBI calls on government to put region ‘at heart of Budget’

Bold action on skills, net zero, innovation and infrastructure can kick-start a new decade of growth & investment in the South East, said the CBI after it sent a letter to the chancellor outlining its key Budget asks for the region. The CBI has urged the government to put the ‘South East at the heart of the Budget’ with a series of critical infrastructure asks.

The start of 2020 has seen a welcome lift in business confidence. This historic, first budget of a new decade offers the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment across the UK. It is private sector investment that will lift productivity and enable all parts of the country to share in economic growth. Investment is also the key to building the South East and the UK into a global innovation leader, says the CBI.

Business strongly welcomes the Chancellor’s vision to level up communities and lead the way in the net-zero transition and is committed to playing its full part. Private sector investment has fallen over the past couple of years. This Budget offers the opportunity to reverse this decline through pro-enterprise economic policy for the region.

To achieve this, the CBI recommends a set of practical steps for this Budget. Key proposals for the South East include the following:

1. The UK’s business rates system puts many parts of the UK economy at a competitive disadvantage. A comprehensive review should reduce the bill on individual businesses. That review should be completed by year end to incentivise investment by firms across the UK.

2. Help promote further devolution in the region and offer a framework setting out clear guidelines to support the development of new deals and establish criteria for assessing deal proposals.

3. The Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy is welcome and should as a first step to South West rail improvements. It should also agree to extend contactless ticketing in the South East and fund the Lower Thames Crossing.

4. Innovation investment drives good jobs and global strength but is currently concentrated in the South. The UK should establish a network of high-end research hubs throughout the South East to build on local strengths, develop low carbon zones and support innovation clusters

5. Vital steps on the regions path to Net Zero should be announced, in particular using regulation to ensure that all commercial properties are deemed more energy efficient, further develop testbeds for hydrogen deployment which could transform low carbon usage, and fast-track the doubling of  funding for on-street charging points to ensure coverage for electric vehicles across the South East by 2024.

CBI regional director for the South East Malcolm Hyde said: “At the start of this new decade, firms are feeling more optimistic and want to invest. The CBI is urging the Government to put all UK regions, including Yorkshire and The Humber at the heart of the upcoming budget. Our budget requests will create jobs, growth and investment throughout the South East.

“This historic Budget offers the chance to turn rising optimism into a surge in investment across the UK. Backed by a pro-enterprise Budget for skills, infrastructure and innovation, business can help kickstart a new decade of UK growth and job creation.

“Trade policy will continue to matter, but with strong domestic policy, British firms are ready to invest and get our region into the fast lane of global economies.”