Budget 2017

Budget: chancellor urged to protect ‘food industry bedrock’

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

The pubs and brewing industry has urged the chancellor to help support the industry’s 900,000 jobs and £23bn contribution to the UK economy
The pubs and brewing industry has urged the chancellor to help support the industry’s 900,000 jobs and £23bn contribution to the UK economy

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Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget should protect the “bedrock” of the UK food industry, says the National Farmers Union (NFU), while business leaders urged him to help the nation “grow its way out of austerity”.

Speaking ahead of the budget today (November 22), NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “British farming meets 61% of the nation’s food needs and forms the bedrock of a food and drink sector which contributes £109bn to the nation’s economy and provides 3.8M jobs.

“In this budget, the chancellor has the chance to help secure a bold, ambitious future for British farming. The NFU has made the case for a number of measures which the chancellor can harness to prepare our sector for life outside the EU.”

Supplying the UK food industry

The NFU urged the chancellor’s second budget of the year to adopt six measures to underpin the productivity of farming and the expansion of its role in supplying the UK food industry. Those included: introducing a Farm Infrastructure Allowance to provide relief for the depreciation cost of farm infrastructure over its useful economic lifespan and an exemption for agricultural buildings from any new system of Community Infrastructure Levy or Local Infrastructure Tariff contributions.

Other requests included: an improved capital allowances regime to encourage the adoption of a wider range of new technologies, ensuring the rollout of superfast broadband alongside complete mobile phone coverage and fully utilise emerging digital technology such as robotics and global positioning systems.

The final two requests were for the introduction of a UK farm management deposit scheme to provide farms with the ability to better manage the impact of volatility on profits and their cash flow and a review of trading loss restrictions to help farmers invest in restructuring their businesses.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) asked for a wide ranging package of measures that it estimated would cost about £5bn – or 0.25% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018/19.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Brexit planning must not be allowed to crowd out vital action at home. With this budget, the government needs to set its eyes on the horizon, not the next few yards.

“The only sure way to raise living standards and provide sustainable public services is to solve the UK’s productivity problem. This means tackling the weak foundations of our economy with consistency and determination.”

‘UK’s productivity problem’

That should be achieved by kick-starting “the UK’s new Industrial Strategy”​, with improvements to  education, fuelling inward investment in energy and infrastructure, spurring innovation and promoting competitiveness through the tax system. Read more about the CBI’s budget wish list in the box below.

Meanwhile, eight leading bodies representing the supply chain in Britain’s beer and pub industry have urged the chancellor to ease the burden of both beer duty and business rates “to protect jobs, pubs, and the wider economy​”. 

The group wants the chancellor to extend and increase the pub-specific rates relief introduced this March, beyond this year and set out the timetable for major reform of the system. It also wants at least a freeze for the entire duration of this parliament.

Pubs and brewing support 900,000 jobs and contribute £23bn to the UK economy, said the group. It included: British Beer & Pub Association, Campaign for Real Ale, Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, British Institute of Innkeeping, Society of Independent Brewers, Pub is the Hub, Maltsters Association of Great Britain and the British Hop Association.

Here’s what the budget actually delivered​.

What the CBI wants from the budget

  • Communicate a clear plan on the government’s Industrial Strategy with a timetable for the consultations promised in the Industrial Strategy green paper
  • Protect per pupil funding in real terms for this parliament and replenish schools’ capital budgets to support investment in long-term growth
  • Commit to fast delivery of planned infrastructure projects within the current road and rail investment pipelines, with clear timeframes and implementation plans including investment in ultra-fast digital networks
  • Ensure business rates incentivise productive investment – especially from our manufacturers – by exempting new plant and machinery investments from rates bills and bringing forward the Retail Price Index to Consumer Price Index switch
  • Set out a pathway to reach an investment target of 2.4% of GDP on research and development (R&D) by 2027 and increase Innovate UK’s funding for collaborative R&D
  • Provide government departments with resources to make a success of Brexit, and set out a vision for tax policy that enhances the attractiveness of the UK as a place to do business.

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