Eastbourne Chamber Crunches The Budget

Wednesday 8th March 2017

eastbourne buzz news - Chamber Of Commerce

Business leaders in Eastbourne have been casting their eye over today’s budget (8 March).

The Chamber of Commerce is still to look at the fine print of the Chancellor’s forecast, but has given their initial response to Eastbourne Buzz.

Chief Executive, Christina Ewbank, has provided the following breakdown for what it could mean for the town:

“While it is too early to say definitively what the budget means for business in Eastbourne we have looked at the headlines and are concerned that SMEs are being squeezed from all directions. 

Rateable Value Increases

A £300 million rateable value hardship fund was announced for the hardest hit businesses but it means little until we know how many businesses qualify as “hardest hit”.   While rates payable may be cushioned in year one, how much will rates increase to over the next 5 years for those businesses who have seen a significant rise in their rateable value?  The hardest hit seems to be the tourism and leisure industry which is important to Eastbourne so it will be interesting to see how the hardship fund will be shared out. 

The highest RV increase in Eastbourne is over 1000% - have you checked yours?

National Insurance

Class 4 National Insurance for self-employed earners making more than £8,060 profit per year will eventually go up to 11% bringing them much closer to the 12% National Insurance paid by Class 1 employed earners.  In the past self-employed people were believed to bear more risk hence their lower NI payments but the gap is closing.  

Let’s hope it all goes to the NHS.  (We would probably all chip in more NI if we could be sure it all went to the NHS.)

Transport Infrastructure Improvements

£90 million has been earmarked for the North and £23 million for the Midlands.  Unfortunately, nothing has been put aside for the South or the A27 although the sum needed for an improved road between Lewes and Polegate will cost in the region of £350 million, so the sums allocated in the budget are likely to be for relatively minor junction improvements.

Tax Avoidance

A sum of £890 million has been earmarked to fight tax avoidance.  Let’s hope they focus on wealthy multinationals like Amazon, Apple and Google not the SMEs that are the backbone of East Sussex.

Imminent Cost Increases

  • The increases to the National Living Wage announced at the last budget by George Osborne are squeezing the tourist, leisure and retail sectors which make up much of the Eastbourne economy and will continue to do so as the living wage rises.
  • Immigration controls may also affect these sectors badly as much of their work force is made up of hard working Europeans.
  • The Apprenticeship Levy comes into effect in April and will cost a company with a £3 million wage bill an extra £15,000 a year.  The implementation guidelines are not clear so it is difficult to plan for this cost.
  • The value of the pound is affecting inflation now as fuel prices and other imported materials increase in cost.  In the short term, further increases are likely as we move towards a hard Brexit.
  • Pension Auto-Enrolments are a good thing for the workforce but have increased wage bills as they come into effect this year for the smallest SMEs.


“In Eastbourne, we are a resilient business community.  We are always looking for ways to introduce new efficiencies, cut costs and find new markets for growth in order to continue to thrive, despite the cost increases detailed above.  Forewarned is forearmed and so Eastbourne business people will look at these changes and plan to make the best of them; as we always do.

“Having said that we would urge the Chancellor to look at all these challenges and do what he can to introduce real reform to the rates system.  The current system is innately unfair and is impossible to understand for the average small business.  It needs a major review to bring about fundamental change to the system.”

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