After more than a year of uncertainty surrounding Brexit and Covid-19, we can now see some light at the end of the tunnel with the success of the vaccine rollout and the government’s ‘road map’ out of lockdown, however, we can now look ahead with optimism. The chancellor’s assertion that for businesses, certainty matters., cannot be understated.
After a turbulent year, today’s Budget announcement highlights the need for businesses to remain flexible, agile, and adaptable, and we welcome the much-anticipated extension of the furlough scheme to support individuals and businesses as the country gets back on its feet.
Businesses have been reliant on the furlough scheme, business rates relief and deferred VAT payments and despite lockdown restrictions easing in the coming months, continued financial support from the government remains vital to the survival of many firms in the vehicle rental sector.
It was inevitable that the country would have to repay debts racked up throughout the pandemic, with a rise in corporation tax by even just 1% would contribute an extra £3bn to this, helping the UK push its way into recovery, so we should be reassured that the increase from 19% to 25% is in the best interests of the country. Given this will not come into effect until 2023 and operate on a sliding scale for firms, it’s encouraging that the chancellor recognises now is not the time to raise taxes for business, many of whom are struggling with restrictions and need time to get back on their feet.
It’s promising to see the Chancellor’s commitment to helping the regions level up and grow post-pandemic and post-Brexit, particularly the North, with the location of Treasury North revealed as Darlington, and that the Humber and Teesside are amongst the first wave of freeport locations. These locations will be key to boosting trade, jobs, investment, and confidence across the UK.
A renewed commitment to green growth is reassuring, and given our headquarters in Leeds, it’s especially gratifying to hear that the first ever UK infrastructure bank will be located in in the city and focused on investing in the green industrial revolution from the Spring.
The continued freeze on fuel duty for the eleventh consecutive year should prove a relief to many as well. The government’s continued support of the transport and logistics sector, which is critical to the UK economy, is extremely welcome. However, whilst the government is also clearly sign-posting fleets towards a greener future in light of the looming petrol and diesel ban in 2030, it must further support the production of EVs to increase affordability, as well as put the appropriate infrastructure in place, to enable more businesses to see how this transition could be a realistic solution.
It remains to be seen how the opportunities presented by freeports and tax freezes will translate into the fleet sector but the level of additional investment and tax breaks the government has committed to today is promising. Following today’s announcement, we need to now see a clear timing plan for the projects that the government intends to refocus on to boost the economy to reassure businesses and enable them to drive forward with confidence.