“Hugely challenging time” for businesses says LEP Chair

November 17, 2022

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a raft of measures in today’s Autumn Statement, saying his priorities were stability, growth and public spending.

Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, said the combination of tax rises and spending cuts in the Autumn Statement came as no surprise – but would create a hugely challenging environment for the business community.

Mandy Thorn MBE

She said plans to tackle inflation, reduce borrowing and rebalance the nation’s finances were welcome after the impact of the previous Government’s fiscal statement earlier in the year.

But she called for urgent action to review business rates to allow companies to draw up the long-term investment plans on which growth would depend, and said the LEP would be watching closely moves to focus Investment Zones on universities to ensure the Marches was not left out.

The LEP brings together the business community, the public sector and academia to drive economic growth across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, and has invested £196million in the region over the last decade.

Its business support service – the Marches Growth Hub – supported more than 15,000 businesses across the region in the 2021/22 financial year and helped more than 800 people start a new business.

“The Chancellor was in an almost impossible situation and his Autumn Statement today certainly reflected that,” Mandy said.

“I very much hope this package brings the stability we need and welcome the move to confirm that we are keeping to our target to cut emissions by 68 per cent over the next seven years and the focus on energy efficiency and independence.

“This very much reflects our own priorities, with the upcoming launch of the Marches Energy Grant specifically designed to help companies reduce their own energy costs and emissions. This forms part of our £4million Marches Energy Fund programme to help safeguard the region’s energy security.

“But we need to hear more about what help the Government plans to give businesses with energy costs when the current scheme ends in April.

“And while Mr Hunt’s move to ensure two thirds of businesses will not face an increase in their business rates when they are revalued next year is clearly welcome, much greater action here is needed.

“Business rates have not been fit for purpose for some time and Mr Hunt must urgently instigate a thorough review of them if business is to be given the confidence to make strategic investment decisions for the future.

“Without that confidence and the subsequent investment, it is difficult to see how the foundations for sustained and sustainable growth can be laid.”

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The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership has now ceased trading and transferred all its functions to Shropshire Council working with Telford & Wrekin Council and Herefordshire Council, in line with the UK Government's plans for devolution.

The Marches LEP was established in 2011 and hands over an impressive legacy from its 13-year life. In that time the LEP invested over £196m in projects across the Marches, securing in excess of £100m of match funding and supported more than 66,000 business interactions.

The schemes supported have made tangible differences to local communities, increasing skills, creating jobs and improving the physical appearance of many towns.

We would like to thank all the LEP Board Members who have given their time freely over the life of the LEP, as well as all the staff who worked for the LEP over the years. We also want to thank our delivery partners, local education providers and local, regional and national stakeholders who helped us achieve so much.

The Marches Growth Hub will continue to support businesses and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford and Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Each of the three Local Authorities will also continue to provide direct business support locally. Details of this support will be available through the Marches Growth Hub website and from the Local Authorities directly. Website: www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk | email: enquiries@marchesgrowthhub.co.uk.

The Marches Careers Hub will continue to be delivered and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Website: www.marchescareershub.co.uk | email: info@marchescareershub.co.uk

For any queries about Getting Building Fund (GBF), Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Marches Investment Fund (MIF) projects supported by the Marches LEP please contact: gary.spence@shropshire.gov.uk

For any finance queries please contact: michelle.hodgkiss@shropshire.gov.uk

The solvent liquidation of the Marches LEP is being managed by the Evelyn Partners Limited. For any matter related to this please contact: Camilla.Mulholland@evelyn.com

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