How Harrogate has reacted to The Budget
Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP has hailed Wednesday’s Budget as a significant step on the path to ‘levelling up’ Yorkshire with London and the south while the town's chamber of commerce has welcomed the 'rates holiday' for small businesses.
Although it was new Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £30 billion pledge to protect the economy from coronavirus which caught the headlines, Andrew Jones said he was also delighted by ‘significant infrastructure expenditure designed to fulfil the government’s pledge to rebalance the economy’.
Mr Jones said: “I am particularly impressed by the scale of infrastructure investment we are set to see. This year there will be an extra £53m in Yorkshire for road maintenance. I will be working to ensure that we get our fair share.”
The Harrogate business community has been calling for a reduction in business rates in recent months to support the retail sector in the town centre and the first Budget by Mr Sunak, the North Yorkshire-based MP for Richmond, went some way to addressing their concerns.
The new concessions include giving all small businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 a business rates ‘holiday’ for one year and an announcement that business rates as a whole would be reviewed later in the year.
Sandra Doherty, chief executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, said: "The business rates 'holiday' will bring much-needed relief for many small businesses across the Harrogate district.
"It is an extremely difficult time to run a high street business and there seems to have been very little positive news for retailers and others for quite some time.
"The growing threat of coronavirus would doubtless have been playing on many owners' minds, so the timing of this news is very welcome.
"It's also good for our town centres and other retail areas.
"This rates break could mean the difference between businesses surviving into next year and what could otherwise have been many more empty units around our towns.
"However, we shouldn't be complacent - this is a short-term measure and local businesses still need our support in the coming months and years."
Andrew Jones MP welcomed the news but echoed the sentiments of the British Chamber of Commerce which said it was keen to see changes to “broken business rates system” happen quickly.
Mr Jones said: “Most people recognise now that the business rate is a tax that is not working. In the medium to long term the Chancellor announced that a full review of the business rates system will begin later this year.
"I will be encouraging all local businesses to take part in that review and championing those views to the Treasury.”
Business group Independent Harrogate said: “We are delighted with the Government’s initiative on business rates but the High Street still needs a level playing field for rates so that online businesses pay their fair share of tax.
"It’s a great opportunity for North Yorkshire County Council to be helpful to Harrogate’s High Street by not putting up parking charges in the spring and, instead, offering an element of free parking for at least one year. "
The big spending Budget also included extra money for the NHS and schools, an increase in taxes on pollution, the cancellation of a planned rise in beer duty and what the chancellor described as the biggest rise of investment in transport and infrastructure since 1955.
Mr Jones welcomed more funding for flood defences in areas such as Knaresborough and Boroughbridge, additional help for housing associations and rough sleepers and a rise in the living wage.
Mr Jones said: “In Harrogate and Knaresborough many people working in the relatively low paid hospitality industry and this will see a salary increase for the least well-paid.
“I was pleased, too, to see the additional help for housing association and rough sleepers.
"Our area is already seen as one of the leading lights in what we do for the homeless, street beggars and those in housing needs so we know new funding will be used well.”