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A Budget like no other, for an economy that will never be the same

North West business leaders are calling on The Chancellor to focus on a green recovery and deliver against promises to level-up the UK economy in The Budget, which takes place on March 3.

Rishi Sunak is due to set out the next stage of government plans to help the economy recovery the effects of the pandemic and will also update on its package of support measures.

Carl Williams, North West Managing Partner at business advisors Grant Thornton said: “It’s now time for a Budget with tangible financial commitments to the devolution agenda; and support for businesses to invest in the new skills, re-training, and digital ways of working which will be key for sustainable businesses and rewarding careers.”

Andrew Ruffler, chief executive of Professional Liverpool, backed the message: “We want the Chancellor to prioritise commitments to levelling up the regions, particularly in transformational areas such as digital and physical infrastructure. We would also welcome more focus on enabling inclusive growth through the provision of enhanced localised support and incentives for talent retention, skills development and entrepreneurship. These are all essential dynamics in driving the post-lockdown regional economy.”

Clare Hayward, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership said: “The Chancellor has a significant opportunity to support the delivery at pace of the necessary skills and technologies required to decarbonise the UK economy. Our region is highly industrialised and is therefore focussed on the development of green energy solutions such as carbon capture, hydrogen fuels, exploration of the role of natural capital and new technologies to improve the distribution of power.

“Plans to build the UK’s first low carbon hydrogen production hub at Essar’s Stanlow Refinery in Cheshire have already been announced. Any new incentives that encourage the growth of the industrial decarbonisation cluster are welcome and will help ensure that we can accelerate the decarbonisation. Reducing our carbon footprint is a critical global issue and front and centre of our vision for Cheshire and Warrington. Decarbonising how we live and work offers a significant economic opportunity and with the UN climate change conference, COP26, being held in Glasgow in November, the UK has a great opportunity to demonstrate how it is prioritising investment in clean growth.”

Dr Annette Bramley, director of the N8 Research Partnership – a strategic collaboration between the North’s eight research intensive universities said: “I encourage the Chancellor and his team to reflect upon the findings of the Dasgupta review, published in early February. The ground breaking review articulated society’s collective failure to engage with nature sustainably and how our economies and wellbeing are intrinsically linked to the health of the natural world.

“Professor Dasgupta made clear that while whole ecosystems are on the brink of collapse, transformative change is possible – but action must be taken immediately. The UK’s commitment to delivering that change is brought into sharp focus by our hosting of COP26 later this year. The world is currently watching, looking for evidence that we are undertaking policies befitting our status as hosts of such a historically significant event.

“At this Budget, the Chancellor can go some way to delivering on the Government’s ten point green industrial revolution plan by supporting both Eden Project North and Net Zero North. Support for these projects, which will connect the Northern Powerhouse’s science and research capabilities, skills providers and businesses, would demonstrate the Government’s commitment to enabling the radical change that Professor Dasgupta says is required to protect the planet for future generations whilst simultaneously driving the recovery from COVID-19. I implore the Chancellor to grasp this tremendous opportunity.”

There was also a warning about the impact of tax hikes focused on entrepreneurs. Christopher Clarke, Chief Operating Officer at EMC Capital, the family-owned Cheshire-based manufacturing group said: “I hope the Chancellor remembers that entrepreneurs are vitally-important to our economy and doesn’t do anything to discourage them from risk-taking and investing. If Entrepreneurs’ Relief is scrapped entirely, I fear many small business owners will be unfairly penalised when they come to sell, which in the long term may dampen the spirit of enterprise we need to grow our economy.”