The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday delivered his Spring Budget. Jon Lawes, Managing Director of Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, responds.
“As expected, this was a slimmer Budget than usual, particularly for those in and around the fleet industry. Philip Hammond had already announced numerous policies for motorists in his Autumn Statement – including the Fuel Duty freeze and changes to Salary Sacrifice schemes – and he has another Budget later this year. So he didn’t have much to say today.
“One of the policies announced was a freeze in the Vehicle Excise Duty and Road User Levy rates paid by hauliers. This is welcome news for the HGV operators who keep our economy moving forward, but we might have expected to hear more. There are still several questions surrounding automotive policy in this country, including the future of the Plug-in Car Grant, that have not yet been addressed.
“The Budget hints that one of these questions will be addressed later this year – with a consultation on, and possible changes to, the tax treatment of diesel. Of course, reducing air pollution is an important cause. But it’s worth remembering that there is more to the problem than just diesel vehicles. The fleet industry must work with the Government to ensure that emissions are reduced, but also to ensure that motorists and vehicle operators aren’t unduly penalised.
“It’s encouraging that the Chancellor continues to emphasise the importance of infrastructure in his speeches, even though there was no new money for it in today’s Budget. What he did provide were details on how the funding he announced in November will be spent. Motorists will be pleased that almost £1 billion is going towards easing congestion.
“As for the rest of the Budget, the tone was mixed. We’re happy to hear that growth is forecast to be stronger this year than was previously expected, although that news is tempered by downgrades for subsequent years.
“The Chancellor rightly sees training and skills as crucial to our economic future. An increased focus on work placements and lifelong learning will benefit employers and employees alike.
“Another boon for employers came in the form of the Chancellor’s concessions on Business Rates. Mr Hammond has clearly listened to those businesses who voiced their concerns about the impact of next month’s revaluation. The £435 million of support announced today will ease some of those worries, but it is vital that this money goes where it is most needed.
“More concerning are the tax rises facing self-employed people. Mr Hammond presented these as a means of making the tax system fairer, but they could simply hurt ordinary workers who are already struggling with the cost of living.
“With prices, and particularly petrol prices, on the rise, we hope that the Chancellor will provide much-needed relief in his second Budget in autumn.”