Growth is forecast to increase
Growth is forecast to increase – this mirrors our own findings which show that businesses are confident about the next 12 months (66% of Greater Lincolnshire businesses expect their turnover to increase in next 12 months).
Unemployment continues to fall. The claimant rate is currently 30 per cent lower than it was this time last year, with total numbers of claimants showing signs of returning to similar levels to those we saw prior to the economic downturn and recessionary period. It is the lowest total since 2008.
Training and business
The increase in wage for apprenticeships is to be welcomed. We expect the Greater Lincolnshire economy to create 100,000 new jobs by 2022 – often at highly skilled levels. Apprenticeships are a very effective way of providing people for those jobs and with those skills. The LEP expects to invest more than £500,000 of EU funding into promoting apprenticeships in the next 12 months. The proposed Apprenticeship Voucher will help to strengthen the relationship between employers and training providers – something that the Lincolnshire and Rutland Employment and Skills Board has been championing for some time.
Further tax incentives for research and development will help our businesses to innovate. Thirty-eight per cent of Greater Lincolnshire businesses introduced an improved product or service in the last 12 months. The Greater Lincolnshire Growth Hub, which receives Government and Lincolnshire County Council financial support, will have a specific objective of signposting businesses to finance for investment – and we will include information on this tax benefit within our programme.
We are pleased to see proposals for strengthening the Northern Powerhouse. The Treasury has identified the benefits of having technology hubs – this is something we have already created in Lincolnshire (Boston, Mablethorpe, Louth, Horncastle, and Lincoln) and which is already benefitting our small businesses. Support for the Humber Enterprise Zone will have a wide-reaching benefit for businesses and communities in our area.
The proposals for investment in an agricultural innovation centre in East Anglia are also welcome. We are in active discussion with the New Anglia LEP about partnership projects that will share their agri-tech skills and knowledge with our businesses and vice versa.
Because our important logistics sector – based around our food production sector in particular – experiences skills shortages, we welcome the proposed investigation into how to accelerate activity to address this skills shortage. This was debated at a recent Lincolnshire County Council Economic Scrutiny Committee.
Government will double export promotion activity to China. Lincolnshire County Council has recently opened up discussions about a relationship with Hunan Province, the province where CSR is based – the parent company of Dynex. Thirteen per cent of the area's businesses export, and of those that do export more than half expect to increase levels of export next year.
New financial instruments will help our businesses to invest. Eighty-four per cent of businesses expect to invest over the next two years, but our businesses often cite a lack of access to capital as a barrier to their business growth. More Government support will help to break through that difficulty between a desire to invest and a difficulty in accessing finance.
The devolution of skills policy to the Mayor of London, and business rates retention in Greater Manchester and Peterborough/Cambridge, show that Government recognises the importance of local economic development. The LEP and the county council will be working with Government to make the case for similar arrangements here, using our local knowledge and strong partnerships to deliver activity that will be very effective to all areas in our county.
The freeze in fuel duty will encourage more visits within the UK. Day breaks, short breaks and national visitors are an important part of our tourism industry. Making it cheaper for them to visit the county will help us to meet our ambition of doubling the value of the tourism sector in 20 years. We, in turn, will be supporting that ambition through new attractions like Lincoln Castle and through training, welcome host and information schemes.
We are already developing a detailed case for Government investment in better mobile phone infrastructure. This will help businesses to use mobile apps to good effect. We will be making a strong case to attract some of the £600m that the Chancellor has announced today.
West Lindsey Housing Zone has been confirmed in the Budget, and this will help us to meet our ambitious targets for home building which in turn will secure the area’s long term economic growth.
Beer duty has been reduced, so now a bottle of Batemans Law of the Land beer, brewed to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and our investments in Lincoln Castle, will be cheaper.