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Josephine Bush, tax partner at EY: Chancellor’s hands maybe tied next week

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Written by:   | Posted 27-November-2014 9:24

The Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement on December 3, but is not expected to muddy the waters and won’t give much away ahead of next year’s general election.

With the UK general election in May 2015, a Scottish election in May 2016 and a possible referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in 2017, this is an uncertain time for businesses across the UK, and no less so in the South West.

Additional uncertainty arises as the Scottish referendum earlier this year triggered a national debate about major constitutional change in other regions of the UK.

The Chancellor now has the opportunity to build on this momentum and try to galvanise growth across the English regions. Change and further devolution of powers will still be forthcoming in the form of concessions from Westminster and greater control for the regions.

But devolution will be an ongoing process and businesses in the South West must have a voice, continuing to engage with Government, local authorities and each other in maximising any benefits these new powers can deliver for the economy and identifying any challenges they create.

Business leaders have urged the Government to focus on energy and infrastructure projects with businesses in the South West hoping for significant investment, which would have a significant impact on the region’s economic potential.

For example, improvements to the A303 around Stonehenge to relieve congestion to the South West have been in demand for some time.Retail and small business groups have also been championing the need for business rates reform.

The British Retail Consortium has encouraged its members to write to their MPs and has called for an extension of reliefs put in place last year and a commitment to overhaul the tax after the election.

However, with income tax receipts expected to be below forecasts – due to weak growth in wages and borrowing up as a result – the Chancellor may feel that his hands are tied.

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