Budget ‘should recognise Science Parks’

NW Insider: 21st March 2012

A focus on the ‘knowledge economy’ and migration of public sector workers from the capital could be just the tonic Liverpool needs from today’s Budget.

The city’s business leaders also told Insider they would like to see better access to finance and recognition of the importance of science parks in the 2012 Budget.

Neil Sturmey, tax partner at Grant Thornton in Liverpool, said: “The four growth areas identified by the Liverpool city region are largely embedded and accepted now.

“Focus continues on the knowledge economy, low carbon, the visitor economy and Super Port, so any tax breaks and incentives which support this will be welcomed with open arms.

“Advanced manufacturing in the area can only encourage others to see the benefits of innovation and will almost certainly encourage businesses to relocate here.”

Phil Blything, founder of web design agency Glow New Media in Liverpool, said: “In comparison to many of the UK’s regional cities, Liverpool has sustained its commitment to growth,” he said.

“The rumoured proposal to bring public sector salaries in line with regional economies is potentially bad news for Liverpool but every cloud has a silver lining.

“The resultant salary increases in the south may well make it non-viable for public sector HQs to remain in the capital, driving relocations to the North.”

Chris Musson, chief executive of Liverpool Science Park, said: “It is reassuring the government is recognising the pivotal role the country’s small and medium sized companies, particularly those in the technology sectors.

“They require specialist facilities housing like minded companies such as Liverpool Science Park. It is for this reason we are currently investing heavily, at risk, in creating additional commercial laboratories on site.

“The change in empty business rates legislation had the perverse consequence of penalising science parks. I hope the government rectifies this policy own goal.”

Frank McKenna, chairman of lobbying group Downtown Liverpool in Business said: “Access to finance is still by far the biggest issue facing Liverpool businesses, and so it will be interesting to see the details of the new loan scheme.

“The hospitality sector is of growing importance to our local economy, and I would like to see a change in the VAT regime, bringing rates in line with Europe.”

Paul Howarth, director at recruitment company Howarth Morris, said: “The feedback we are getting from our clients across Liverpool and Merseyside is pretty consistent.

“They wish to see the Chancellor continue with his efforts to maintain fiscal stewardship of the economy to ensure interest rates are kept under control.

“But a strong message, particularly from the SME business community, is a desire to see the government invest in business.”

Laura Chalkey, employment law specialist at Maxwell Hodge in Liverpool, said: “The stand out development in the Budget is the government’s announcement of changes in unfair dismissal procedure.

“Mr Osborne will double to two years the amount of time someone must be employed before they can pursue an unfair dismissal claim.

“There is also a proposal that an employee will have to pay a fee of £150 to £250 for bringing an Employment Tribunal claim as well as further minimum charge of £1,000 to proceed to hearing.

“The government claims this approach will give businesses, particularly smaller firms, increased security and the confidence to hire new staff. Out concern is it will erode workers’ rights and have an effect on staff retention.”

Paul Hyland, tax partner at DSG chartered accountants in Liverpool, said: “While Merseyside has fared quite well in the last 12 months with some exciting developments on the horizon, what we need to see is tangible evidence that future innovation, growth and regeneration can be supported through measures in this year’s budget.

“Investment in solid infrastructure and support for exports would pave the way for Liverpool to continue its renaissance.

“If this is combined with a radical attempt to remove some of the red tape surrounding growth, Liverpool would begin to see some real benefit.”

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