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Halt to business rates rise is top budget priority for Norfolk Chamber

PUBLISHED: 10:39 23 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:55 23 October 2017

The chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. The business group is calling for

The chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Chris Sargisson. The business group is calling for "bold" moves from chancellor Philip Hammond in his autumn budget. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Immediate action to halt an expected rise in business rates next year is paramount in a Norfolk business lobby group’s demands for the chancellor ahead of the autumn budget.

Norfolk Chamber of Commerce has called on Philip Hammond to stop the 3.9% increase in rate valuations expected next year, as part of a “bold” budget to boost UK productivity and prepare the country for Brexit.

The group has also proposed pausing changes to corporation tax, freezing it at 19% until after Brexit with resulting revenue ring-fenced to support businesses’ cash flows and investments.

Chris Sargisson, chief executive at Norfolk Chamber, said a failure to act on business rates would hit high streets, manufacturers and others and potentially undermine investment.

“It would be unconscionable for the government to use September’s inflation figures to slam Norfolk businesses with a huge rise in rates, particularly when they already face spiralling up-front costs,” he said.

“Too many companies are playing a ‘wait-and-see’ game at the moment. We need a big, bold incentive to get more firms investing – particularly ahead of the Brexit transition.”

Together with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Norfolk Chamber has called for action in three key areas from the budget on November 22: Tackling the up-front costs of doing business, including a pledge not to introduce any further input taxes and to abandon increases in business rates for the next two years; incentivising business investment during the Brexit process through the introduction of a £1m “Brexit special” annual investment allowance; and fixing the “fundamentals” including mobile phone coverage and transport infrastructure.

Mr Sargisson said the budget sat at a “critical moment” for the UK economy

“A budget that prioritises goodies and giveaways rather than future-proofing the economy would be a dereliction of duty by the government as a whole,” he said.

“The best possible Brexit deal won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if conditions for growth aren’t right here at home in Norfolk.

“The chancellor has a unique chance to move the dial on growth and productivity now, leaving the UK in a position to succeed over the long term.”

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