Judging the comments of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt from Cambridge’s political and business leaders

Jeremy Hunt unveiled his spring budget to a mixed response.

While the Conservatives cheered changes to childcare and pensions, as well as incentives for research and development, Labor and the Liberal Democrats complained that it had failed to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt leaves 11 Downing Street with his red box and members of his ministerial team.  Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt leaves 11 Downing Street with his red box and members of his ministerial team. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

You can check out our brief guide to what was announced here.

This is what the political leaders and businessmen said from the advisor’s statements.

Politics: “We needed a top-tier budget but got four complaints from Daniel Zeichner

Jeremy Hunt has centered his ads around the Four Es: Enterprise, Education, Employment and Everywhere.

But Daniel Zeichner, the Labor MP for Cambridge, suggested: “What the country needs today is a budget worthy of four S’s, but instead it got one of four S’s.

Representative Daniel Zeichner.  Photo: Keith Hebel
Representative Daniel Zeichner. Photo: Keith Hebel

“This budget will do little to help the people or businesses of Cambridge. The stalled Tory economic chaos has left us all poorer.

Wages are lower in real terms than they were in 2010, which is why many are on strike, while technology and research companies increasingly see better opportunities abroad.

“The Tories are offering short-term fixes to the problems they have created – what Cambridge needs is a long-term green transition action plan that will be good for the economy, good for the planet, and good for Cambridge.”

Anthony Brown Rep.  Photo: Keith Hebel
Anthony Brown Rep. Photo: Keith Hebel

But South Cambridgeshire Conservative MP Anthony Browne was impressed, posting on Facebook: “Just exited the budget announcement. Here are some of my biggest highlights:

  • Changes to the R&D tax credit – a huge benefit to our life sciences companies!
  • 30 hours of free weekly childcare for working parents extended to children under the age of three
  • Eliminating the lifetime allowance – previously set at £1.07m – is something I’ve been discussing with local doctors.
  • An increase in the annual investment allowance to £1 million, which means that 99% of all businesses can deduct the full value of all their investments from the taxable profits for that year
  • Service is frozen over a pint at the pub again – as is fuel, with the 5p cut still in place and passed on to consumers.
  • Nuclear power has been reclassified as ‘environmentally sustainable’ – a big indicator for the industry, on top of £20bn to support carbon capture, something he has championed nationally.

“In short—three cheers from me! But there is a lot more to come to our district specifically as I leaf through the finer details in the Red Book—now go to my desk to read it!”

He added that he was “happy to see the abolition of the lifetime pension savings ceiling by the Bahrain Monetary Agency.”

“It is a tax penalty that has forced many doctors around Cambridge to retire early, exacerbating the shortage of doctors and the NHS backlog. It is something I have worked hard on with medical groups and the Treasury,” Brown said.

Lucy Fraser MP.  Photo: Keith Hebel
Lucy Fraser MP. Photo: Keith Hebel

Culture Minister Lucy Fraser, MP for the South East Cambridgeshire Party, said on Twitter: “Good news for our sectors of today’s budget.

  • A £100m support package for frontline charities
  • £63m to keep swimming pools afloat across England
  • £8.6m to support the Edinburgh Festival Economy
  • Expanded tax credits for theatre, music, museum, television and film.”

But Pippa Hillings, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire, was unimpressed.

Pippa Hillings speaks to young doctors on strike
Pippa Hillings speaks to young doctors on strike

“It shows that the Conservative government is completely out of touch with the people of South Cambridgeshire,” she said.

“Despite the biggest drop in living standards since the 1950s, there has been little or nothing to do with the cost of living.

“I was outside Addenbrooke this morning talking to junior doctors who have found themselves having to strike. They deserve more than an applause. That’s why I was shocked to hear of anything new at all in this spring budget on fairer pay for NHS doctors and nurses.

The chancellor’s refusal to put more money into our struggling local health services and run-down hospitals is shameful.

“Locals tell me it is almost impossible to see an NHS GP or dentist here. The local health service is doing what they can but they are struggling as hard as ever. We can’t go on like this any longer.

“Once again, the local population is being taken for granted by the Conservative government with no help with the cost of living or because of the difficulty of local health services.”

Business: No investment zone east – but leaders welcome capital spending in full

The advisor took several steps to encourage investment.

A new “full capital expenditure” policy will be introduced over the next three years, meaning every pound invested in IT equipment, plant or machinery can be immediately deducted from earnings.

There will be a new tax credit for small and medium-sized companies that spend 40 percent of their spending on research and development. The chancellor said tax credits for films, television and video games would also be extended.

Meanwhile, Cambridge’s ears perked up when the chancellor announced an annual £1 million prize for AI research over the next ten years, called the “Manchester Prize”.

However, there was disappointment that the East of England had completely lost out on the new investment areas that had been announced.

The only mention of an East West train was the confirmation of the Bedford-Cambridge route in May.

James Palmer, Chairman of the Eastern Force Council.  Photo: Keith Hebel
James Palmer, Chairman of the Eastern Force Council. Photo: Keith Hebel

James Palmer, Chairman of the Eastern Powerhouse, and former Tory Mayor of Cambridgehire and Peterborough, described it as “a much advertised budget, delivered within the hour but unfortunately for the East of England, and not much made in terms of investment and sustenance – 17 cues for the North, for two for the East It tells the familiar story of our neighborhood.”

He added: “Great effort has been made to try to get the government to commit to the Ely North railway junction, not only by Eastern Powerhouse but also by local government representatives, but it seems that, again, we will have to wait; it is not mentioned here.”

We welcome tax breaks and initiatives for important sectors here in the East, life sciences, green energy, digital technologies, and advanced manufacturing. These changes will make a huge difference, especially for startups. Investing £20bn in carbon capture schemes, much of which could be off the East Coast, is a welcome initiative and answers a request made to the Energy Secretary in a letter from Eastern Powerhouse last month.

What is of great concern, however, is the lack of an investment area. Given that almost all the other common English powers were assigned an area, it is difficult to understand why the East was missing out, especially in view of the great opportunity here to build on all the major industries mentioned in the budget. We can only hope that the new mayoral districts of Norfolk and Suffolk and the potential devolution agreement for Essex cultivate future opportunities here.”

He noted “better news for Tendring and East Suffolk, who are getting £11m between them for regeneration projects but are the only beneficiaries in the east” but described it as “on the whole, a very mixed bag confirming the lack of a strategic area”.

Palmer concluded: “The East can do much more than the Government currently acknowledges. We will continue to pressure Westminster to produce strategies that will better assist them in future budgets.”

GDP growth forecast for the 2023 budget. Graphic: PA
GDP growth forecast for the 2023 budget. Graphic: PA

Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI Director for the East of England, said: “Our top-tier universities are a catalyst for growth, and the Investment Zone could have provided them with much-needed funding and support for research and development.

There will also be some disappointment among companies in the East of England not to see any advertisements for East West Rail.

“Businesses that want to grow and invest in our region will want to see the government committed to growth across the UK and have policies in place to make this happen.”

Matthew Vail, Interim Director General of the Central Bank of Iraq, said: “This budget is a strong second act in the Chancellor’s stabilization and growth plan.

“The CBI has called for action on people and productivity and the government has supported both. Measures to help households and businesses will secure the growth we need to boost living standards for all.

“Full capital expenditures will keep the UK at the top of the list for attracting investment and put us on a fundamental path towards a more productive economy.

“Enhancing the provision of childcare is a huge win for companies struggling to recruit and retain parents, balancing childcare with professional needs.

Besides supporting occupational health to help people stay in work, it shows the chancellor is listening to the business of reducing economic inactivity and easing a tight labor market.

New investment areas focusing on economic clusters will drive growth across the country and increase support for the nation is another step towards making the UK the science and technology superpower it aspires to be.

“Giving the green light to carbon capture and nuclear power are important steps that will keep the UK’s green growth story on track. With our closest competitors upping their game on green growth, moving faster in the months ahead is key.”

Jeremy Hunt in the House of Commons.  Photo: PA
Jeremy Hunt in the House of Commons. Photo: PA

James Brown, managing partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP in the East of England, said: “This was a budget without the fireworks. Mid-market companies called for measures that would ensure stability and certainty and that’s what we got.

“Replacing the big discount with a tax incentive that goes even further — allowing all companies, regardless of size, to write off 100% of their investment in plant and machinery against their tax bill — is a powerful statement toward encouraging investment.

“This, plus a £1.8bn package of support for small and medium businesses investing in research and development, should go a little way towards eliminating the bitter medicine for the upcoming rise in corporation tax.

However, the lack of new investment areas in the East of England is disappointing. Raising the bar is a UK-wide challenge, but this will do little to dissuade companies that it is more than just North Korean politics.”

“This is an incentive-based, help-yourself budget,” said Chris Sanger, head of tax policy at EY, “where the business is required to do what the advisor directs to get the exemptions offered. Whether you’re a large business that invests and gets a full outlay, or a small business that spends 40 per cent More on research and development or a company investing in a specific area, you’ll benefit from the advisor’s announcements today.Otherwise, companies are left with a corporate tax rate rising to 25 percent from April.

The largest of these new measures is immediate capital spending, which will cost more than £10 billion in 2024-25. The chancellor delivered this for three years and pledged to extend when possible. This action helps the advisor balance its books and actually generate additional tax receipts in 2027-28 as the timing effect reverses, but uncertainty about longevity may limit effectiveness.

“These large projects take time to become ‘shovel ready’, not least because of the planning and other requirements. The sooner the Adviser achieves its aspirations and assures firms that this incentive will cover projects with long lead times, the more investment the UK is likely to attract.”

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