Rural reaction to the chancellor’s Autumn Statement

Chancellor George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Photo: PA Wi

Chancellor George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of Commons. Photo: PA Wire - Credit: PA

Rural campaigners and farmers' representatives have welcomed some measures in chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement – but said more must be done to support businesses in the countryside.

The National Farmers' Union's director of policy, Andrew Clark, said: 'The freezing of fuel duty for a further year, exempting apprenticeships from National Insurance, and a further extension to small business rate relief all have the potential to help farmers. However it is disappointing that the changes to Stamp Duty Land Tax relate to residential property only.

'It is disappointing that no mention was made of the annual investment allowance or encouraging investment in business infrastructure or managing business volatility – some of the NFU's key asks in our submission.

'Although news of tax relief for business contributions to flood defences is welcome, it is disappointing that flood-related announcements all relate to pre-planned capital expenditure and do not address our concerns over maintenance investment.'

The CLA (Country Land and Business Association), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, welcomed the review of the structure of business rates, and the continuation of small business rate relief – but said more action was needed to address the issue of empty properties.

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Eastern regional director Nicola Currie said: 'Businesses across the rural economy are suffering from business rates that increase year after year. We will engage with this important review and make the case for reducing the burden of tax to promote investment and growth across our rural communities.

'We are disappointed the chancellor has once again failed to remove the tax on empty properties that is essential to allow owners to afford the investments needed to bring these properties back into use.'

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Mrs Currie also supported the tax relief for business investments in flood defences, adding: 'Tax relief for businesses investing in flood defence is an important recognition of the role landowners across the country are playing in protecting vital agricultural land and rural communities.'

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