WORKING together, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Somerset Chamber of Commerce and the wider chamber network secured several important achievements for businesses in the 2021 Budget.

We campaigned for an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). I have spoken on many occasions on how the CJRS is more of a ‘sticking plaster’ and cannot substitute a healthy and vibrant business economy. Nevertheless, the extension of the CJRS until the end of September is welcome news for many Somerset firms.

We also wanted to see more support for the self-employed and requested the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) be extended. A fourth SEISS grant will now be available from April and a final grant in July; again, good news.

To prevent severely hit business cashflow for the hardest hit, the UK Chambers also requested extended business rates relief - our win for Somerset businesses was a 100% business rates holiday through to the end of June, followed by a two thirds discount with a threshold for the remaining nine months of 2021.

To further support cashflow in certain sectors, grants are now being offered up to £18,000. It was good to see the Chancellor didn’t simply tax his way out of the current economic problems and news of additional investment incentives arrived in the shape of the new ‘Super Deduction’ tax scheme.

Overall, the budget provided the stimulus and support a hard-hit business sector needed to work its way out of what is effectively a full recession. It was, however, not a good budget for our South West region as considerable focus was placed on ‘levelling-up’ Northern England – although we did secure a Freeport in Plymouth; the Bristol/Avonmouth bid missed out.

Great business Budget, not so good for the South West. 

CEO, Somerset Chamber of Commerce