Lack of environmental focus in Budget is "disappointing"

Aimed at achieving long-term, sustainable economic growth that delivers prosperity for the people of the United Kingdom, the Spring Budget breaks down barriers to work, unshackles business investment and tackles labour shortages head on, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said.

Fran Barnes, HTA Chief Executive, said the Budget has set out an ambition to reduce inflation, give more confidence for capital investment and boost the workforce.

As a sector contributing £28.8bn to GDP and supporting 674,000 jobs, she said the HTA welcome these steps.

“However, missing from the Chancellor’s four ‘Es’ was action on ‘Environment’,” she continued. “As a naturally green industry, we believe to unlock green growth and boost productivity, government must recognise the role of environmental horticulture in delivering for the UK economy, environment and health and well-being.

"This Spring Budget could have been the moment to tackle barriers to our growth, with challenges on trade and borders, regulatory impacts, energy and water resilience being felt here and now. On water, government itself has acknowledged we are on the precipice of another drought year - we had hoped to see support to increase drought resilience for the Summer. On energy, we have called for government to include glass houses in the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries (ETII) scheme to support our great UK growers, and await a response.

"Investment zones supporting the natural environment is great news and we hope that this includes greater support for green spaces. Having reorganised Whitehall just weeks ago to dedicate a department to Net-Zero and not to see this recognised in today’s Budget is a missed opportunity.

“We hope this can be addressed and reiterate that Environmental Horticulture is a green industry, ideally placed to help deliver on carbon sequestration, sustainability and Net-Zero targets.”

Suneeta Johal, Construction Equipment Association Chief Executive, said although there were no great surprises from Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Statement - as many of the announcements were ‘leaked’ earlier this week - there were some positive announcements that will boost productivity within the construction sector.

Hunt claimed that this budget was for “long-term, sustainable, healthy growth” and said the Government would deliver 12 new investment zones, which he labelled “12 potential Canary Wharfs”.

The CEA welcomed the announcement of 12 new ionvestment zones and the £80 billion funding to support a range of interventions including skills, infrastructure, tax relief, and business rates retention, particularly after the delays to HS2 announced last week.

“Although investment funding is subject to application, where ‘an area must identify a location where it can offer a bold and imaginative partnership between local government and university or research institutes in a way that catalyses new innovation clusters’, it does offer an excellent opportunity for collaboration and innovation,” explained Suneeta Johal.

“Another positive announcement was the new £9 billion policy of ‘full capital expensing’ for the next three years, which is to be saluted. Although currently a welcome short-term boost for business investment as we see the end of the super deduction this month, we hope to see Hunt follow through on his aim to make it permanent to encourage investment and provide stability in the long term. Hunt says the OBR believes this will boost business tax by 3% a year.

“The extension of the climate change agreement scheme for two years was another welcome move to allow eligible businesses £600 million of tax relief for energy efficiency measures, particularly important as we head down the road to net zero.

“The fuel duty freeze is also well received and will be of great benefit to the construction and infrastructure sectors.

“The Chancellor set out the four pillars of our industrial strategy – Enterprise, Employment, Education and Everywhere – Hunt said that he had already allocated nearly £4 billion in over 200 projects across the country through the first two rounds of the Levelling Up Fund and a third round will follow, another welcome announcement.

“Whilst the CEA welcomes the announcement of more places on ‘skills boot camps’ to encourage over-50s who have left their jobs to return to the workplace – it is not the silver bullet we were hoping to fill the chronic skills gap in our sector – we need more tangible solutions and partnerships to tackle the shortfall.”

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