Lincolnshire

Colin Davie: Turning the UK into a 21st century model

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The last Autumn Statement (now to be replaced with a single Autumn Budget) clearly began the process of moving the UK economy to a higher innovation, higher productivity, 21st century model.

The fiscal envelope the chancellor is operating in is extremely tight so much of what was announced on November 23 should be seen as the beginning of a journey to this new economy.

The next budget in a years time will need to be far reaching and stimulating, as we not only address the Brexit process which is in full flight, but as we react to the anticipated massive infrastructure stimulus and budget changes from the incoming US administration.

As the Chancellor indicated, we live in a global economy and we must not find ourselves disadvantaged by anything less than ambition for our area and country.

As a conservative, I recognise the challenges the Chancellor faces but if we are to have a country that works for everyone then investment and financial measures must reach every place and every part if that ambition is to delivered.

A number of measures including a 100% rate relief for small rural businesses, raising of personal allowances to £11,500 will specifically help Lincolnshire people and businesses.

As a member of the LEP board I am very pleased to see the confirmation that the role of the LEP is now fully incorporated in government economic planning and the further funding for the Midlands and East of England LEP’s announced today.

The specific mention of The Midlands Engine for Growth is noted and this is a project Lincolnshire is fully supportive of and engaged with.

Transport investment

Phillip Hammond indicated that there will be a £230 million investment in small transport schemes.

One third of Lincolnshire businesses tell us that their business growth is constrained by transport issues.

Any investment that improves businesses’ ability to move their goods, and staff, more quickly is to be welcomed.

Digital services

On November 23, the chancellor talked about investing in 5G technology.

There are 2,000 Lincolnshire digital businesses who employ almost 8,000 staff.

Many choose to be located in Lincolnshire because of the quality of life, access to universities, and the investment that Lincolnshire County Council has already made in superfast broadband.

But we need to keep ahead of the curve, so attracting some of that 5G money will be a priority for my team.

Innovation

The chancellor’s announcement of the new £23 billion Infrastructure and Innovation fund is welcome.

Typically, around one third of businesses in Lincolnshire will introduce a new product or process in a year and it is those businesses whose market share and profit increases.

However, we’re aware that many businesses struggle to win government funding for research/innovation, so if there is more money available then hopefully there will be successful bids made by Lincolnshire businesses.

We will be working quickly with business to establish where Lincolnshire companies could benefit.

Winning new business for our area and our country is the only way we can truly succeed as an economic power in the 21st century.

13% of our businesses export, and 63% trade with the Eurozone countries.

39% of them export to the USA.

They have asked for certainty to help them to plan; that’s not just certainty concerning the government’s negotiating position on Brexit but it is also certainty that their investments will be successful.

19% of them have identified that they want to get into the BRIC markets.

We will continue our work with UKTI to insure Lincolnshire businesses are getting the support they need.