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Cambridge BID CEO: Chancellor offered little help for businesses

Sponsored feature | Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, shares his verdict on the Spring Statement

It’s quite ironic, the week after the clocks changed and we look forward to enjoying longer and lighter evenings that the sun has disappeared and there may even be some sleet midweek.

This overcast feeling was also felt by many businesses last week when they heard Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement as calls from high street businesses for further help from the Chancellor went largely unheard.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Picture: PA
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Picture: PA

While it is welcome that fuel duty has been decreased and the cost of filling up an average car will come down by a few pounds, there was really very little in his statement for businesses trying to recover from the pandemic with inflation forecasted to probably hit double figures later this year.

Hospitality businesses were really hoping for a pause in the return to paying full VAT from April 1 and businesses want more help in filling the 1.2 million vacancies in the UK by adapting the points-based immigration system to recognise retail hospitality and leisure as important sectors. Seasonal farm workers are allowed visas, so in simple terms the picking of produce is seen as skilled, but preparing, cooking and serving is not.

Speaking to businesses this week, far too many are still not operating at full capacity and late-night shopping hours have not returned across the city’s shopping centres and stores, largely due to staff shortages.

The fuel duty reduction and changes in the level at which workers will pay National Insurance is helpful and will offset some of the current weak consumer confidence brought on by high inflation and the conflict in Ukraine, but it was not the substantive support businesses still need.

On a lighter note, Cambridge University rugby and rowing teams are in action this weekend. Good luck to all who take part, let’s hope the light blues win, but more importantly let’s celebrate the return of such events that we have sorely missed these past two years.

Read more from Ian Sandison and Cambridge BID

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