Industry welcomes Chancellor’s infrastructure investment, but anxious on growth

Meetings industry association the HBAA welcomed Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcements of investment in the country’s transport infrastructure as part of the Autumn Statement, 23 November.

The Chancellor had underlined a need to prepare the economy to be ‘match-fit’ for the Brexit transition as growth forecast was upgraded to 2.1% from 2.0% for 2016. For 2017, however, there was a downgrade to 1.4% from 2.2% in 2017 mainly, he said, due to a fall in the value of sterling.

HBAA chair Leigh Cowlishaw said: “The events and hospitality industry has shown over many years and in different economic environments that it is highly adaptable, resilient and innovative.

“While the industry has absorbed and adjusted to the current trend for short lead times for bookings, it is helpful to our members’ businesses, in forecasting, budgeting and developing strategies, to have longer term reassurance of the financial outlook.

“We also welcome the investment in road and transport infrastructure as any initiative that enables people to travel more efficiently is valuable.”

Hammond outlined a commitment to Britain being “Number one destination” for business and announced a doubling of UK export finance capacity, with a £400m venture capital fund to unlock £1bn for growing firms.

Corporation tax, he said, would fall to 17% and a new national productivity investment fund of £23bn over five years is to be launched.
The meetings sector should also benefit from  £1.1bn extra investment for local transport networks and a £1.8bn from the Local Growth Fund to English regions as the Chancellor underlined his commitment to closing the gap between London and rest of the country.

The government is to invest £5m in development funding for the Midlands Rail Hub and a programme of rail upgrades in and around central Birmingham that could provide up to 10 additional trains per hour.

The Chancellor also said there would be £392m for LEPs in the Midlands and £556m for the North of England. £492m goes to London and the south east, and £191m to the South West.

The Meetings Industry Association (mia) chief executive Jane Longhurst said the Chancellor’s confirmation that there had been a worse-than-expected economic slowdown caused by lower investment and weaker consumer demand had been reflected by the mia’s own miaTouchstone data.

“Our last quarterly summary,” said Longhurst, “revealed the economic climate and competitive pressures had restricted DDR growth in the regions. In addition, the number of meetings enquiries fell by 10% while the number of meetings was down by over 20% on 2015.”

And EVCOM CEO, Steve Garvey told CN: “EVCOM has welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s commitment in his Autumn Statement to increased investment in infrastructure. The worsening of the UK’s economic forecast makes such investment all the more necessary as the British business aims to increase its competitiveness in uncertain times. 

“We particularly welcome the additional investment in roads and telecoms, as access to high speed internet is still limited for too many of our members. We believe this infrastructure should support growth throughout the UK to ease pressure on London and the south east of England.

“The overwhelming need our members see from government is to deliver continuing easy access to EU markets and beyond during and after Brexit. EVCOM’s members are confident they can compete with the very best in the world, as long as they are given the chance to do so on a level playing field. Tariffs, customs restrictions and denying access to workers will not help the UK, or any other trading nation, deliver prosperity and growth to its citizens.”

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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