Budget 2021: Rural business leaders welcome Covid-19 recovery measures
- Credit: Pagepix
East Anglia's farming and rural business leaders welcomed short-term measures announced in the Budget to help the countryside economy recover from Covid-19.
Farm businesses, and their diversified leisure and retail enterprises, will be among those which could benefit from the chancellor's decision to extend the reduced 5pc VAT rate for six months, and prolong the business rates "holiday".
Gary Ford, East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said further grants for the self-employed, along with new recovery loans and restart grants, would also help rural businesses bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.
"In the longer-term, farm businesses can play a key role in the investment-led recovery that the chancellor has set out today," he said.
"The announcement of the UK Infrastructure Bank to finance green investment could be a crucial tool in stimulating investment and driving green economic growth.
"The launch of the Levelling Up Fund could also be positive for rural areas in narrowing the growing divide between rural and urban. We look forward to receiving more detail on how this may work in practice.
"However, we are disappointed that the ‘super-deduction’ on machinery investment is only applicable to limited companies and not available to all businesses, especially when significant investment in new farm technology is required."
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Nick Sandford, acting regional director for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA East), also welcomed the extension of the 5pc VAT rate which he described as a "lifeline for many small tourism and hospitality businesses in the East of England who have faced crippling consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic".
But he said the extension is a "short-term crisis response" and urged the government to consider longer-term VAT cuts to boost rural tourism and hospitality firms.
He also welcomed new funding for projects to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges.
"Many of our members are leading the way on this important issue and are already making significant steps towards supporting net-zero emissions targets," he said.
“We will also be studying the proposals for £4m investment in a biomass feedstocks programme in the UK to identify ways to increase the production of green energy crops.”