Peter Davis, Director-General of the BPF, has described the Autumn Statement as a “steady as you go” announcement from the Chancellor, in which there was some “positive news for business.”
Key points delivered in the Statement delivered by George Osborne yesterday included the announcement of extra funding for apprenticeships, a freeze on fuel tax, a cap on business rates as well as an increase in export finance.
Commenting, Davis said: "Fuel tax frozen until May 2015, and capping 2014 Business Rates increases to two percent is good news for plastics companies struggling to hold down costs."
In November, the BPF was one of seven associations that addressed an open letter to the Chancellor calling for some calling for Government action to help drive stronger investment and export levels for the UK ahead of the Statement.
"We asked for more support for exporting so we welcome the doubling of export finance to £50bn,” Davis continued.
"The additional funding for 20,000 more apprenticeships over two years is also welcome to alleviate growing skills shortages as is Employer NICs being scrapped on 1.5 million jobs for young people".
"We are disappointed to see no commitment to substantially raise landfill tax to drive waste towards recycling, also little evidence of Government action to ensure energy supply can comfortably meet demand at affordable prices".
The lack of commitment by the Chancellor to ensure the supply of affordable energy was a concern shared by David Brimelow, Managing Director of Duo UK, a Manchester-based packaging manufacturer.
“One area we would have like to have seen greater action on is the effect of high energy costs on businesses – the Government has obviously grasped that this is a political hot potato from a consumer point of view, but we’ve yet to hear any concrete announcements aimed at the private sector," Brimelow said.
“For us and many manufacturers, energy bills are a major concern and one that directly effects our competitiveness in the international market. If the Government is serious about boosting manufacturing and increasing British exports, this is one area they should tackle urgently.”
Brimelow added that as a growing business looking to attract school and college leavers into the manufacturing sector, he welcomed the announcement of a holiday on National Insurance contributions for younger employees, although said this was tempered by the additional cost of pension contributions that would have to be met.
The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) also welcomed the announcements involving apprenticeships, as well as the extra funding of £50 million per academic year for the teaching of STEM subjects, but urged the Govermnet to sustain its focus and investment in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Commenting on George Osborne’s statement, IChemE’s Dr David Brown said: “There is a loud and consistent message that STEM disciplines are vital to the future of UK plc. This week’s report from the OECD, which indicated that UK maths and science education is stagnating and ‘average’, is further proof that government investment is urgently needed.
“Government needs to ensure that the expansion in apprenticeships and higher education places is focused on economically vital occupations such as engineering.”