A senior leader, a political economist, and a construction and manufacturing industry expert at Birmingham City University have reacted to today’s Budget announcement from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Birmingham City University, said: It is really great news that the West Midlands has been chosen to host one of the Tech hubs clustered around universities in England.
“Whilst we await the details on this, here in Birmingham and the West Midlands we have a clear plan for economic growth focussed on our strengths and opportunities and working closely with the private sector, combined authority and local authorities - the region’s universities have a key role to play. The Tech Hub and Investment Zone will support our ambitious plans and help us drive them forward.”
Associate Professor Steven McCabe, political economist at Birmingham City University, said: “After almost 13 years in government, Hunt still trots out the line of inheriting a broken economy from Labour in 2010. As such, his spring statement today was, as every chancellor strives to present, explicitly about the politics. Crucially, Hunt also sought to differentiate this administration from those under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.”
“Hunt’s announcements provided a mixture of carrot and stick for individuals and business. The former by creating a push for the ‘economically inactive’ to re-join the workforce. In a period of high inflation, and wages lagging behind, the fact that there are 1.1 million job vacancies seems peculiar. The troubles is, many of the jobs on offer either require high skills or are not well paid.
“What Hunt offered to business through incentives, particularly the funding of 12 investment zones to foster economic growth and reduce regional inequality and disparity, represent a step in the right direction. However, many businesses, already teetering under the strain of a spike in energy costs and wage increases, will feel what’s been offered are crumbs.
“For a government that will have been continuously in power for almost 15 years by the time of the next general election, it’s sudden rediscovery of the absolute importance of supporting business through a range of initiatives may seem peculiar. After all, this is a government which facilitated our departure from the European Union, the largest trading bloc in the world, and has appeared 'cloth-eared' to the concerns of business.
“Equally, the vast majority of families undoubtedly feel no better off than when the Conservatives took over from Labour. Hunt’s statement, even including continuing the Energy Price Guarantee, which caps average energy costs for households at £2,500, will have provided little comfort those struggling to pay bills and create a better future.”
Mike Leonard, Visiting Professor for Construction and Manufacturing at Birmingham City University and founder of the ‘Get Britain Building’ campaign, said: “The Budget announcement today critically omitted support for new home building. This is critical as we dodge the threat of recession and set the UK on a pathway to better economic growth.
“As successive Governments have discovered, the answer to sustainable economic growth lies in building new homes – all the more important in light of fuel poverty and with climate change targets accelerating the need to retrofit the UK’s housing stock of some 26 million homes. Support must include a commitment to use locally manufactured building materials and skilled labour to create skilled jobs and harness an economic multiplier of £2.84 for every £1 invested.
“This is also the time to make conditions right for manufacturing businesses to feel confident to invest which is vital to the future resilience of our economy. Government must take the big decisions now to invest in skills and infrastructure including hydrogen and nuclear, to ensure the UK becomes self-sufficient in fossil fuel-free energy that will Get Britain Building a world class future.”