AS 2014: Industry reaction
Dan Mitchell, partner in Barton Willmore's Manchester office: "We welcome the continued commitment to infrastructure investment and greater connectivity in the northern cities. This, alongside the governance changes in Manchester in particular, will provide the mechanism for much greater joined up thinking and development activity than ever before. Coupled with this, is the need to allow the great northern cities space to breathe. Delivering land release as part of a comprehensive planning strategy will be an important factor if we are to truly capitalise on such growth."
David Lathwood, lead director for the North West at JLL: "The announcement of a business rates review was long overdue. The current business rates system is unfair and unfit for purpose with empty rates in particular proving a barrier to regeneration and investment.
"Attracting investment into secondary assets and fringe sites in the North West is critical for the region's long term growth and prosperity. Investors won't be tempted to play the long game with secondary assets if they come with long term liabilities in the form of empty rates. We eagerly await the small print on what's going to be done and what isn't.
"Harnessing the tax revenues of shale gas production in a Sovereign Wealth Fund is a good idea that would ensure that any economic benefit from onshore energy production in the North West is ploughed directly back into our infrastructure. It's exactly this kind of strategic thinking we need to see if we're to believe the Chancellor's vision of a Northern powerhouse is more than pre-election vote courting."
Mike Banton, managing director of construction firm Artez in Bolton: "The first positive for me was the support for jobs and apprentices, which is especially important to us because we are seeing a skills shortage at the coalface for joiners, ground workers and other core skills we need to deliver schemes.
"It was also interesting to see the budget for protecting cathedrals extended to include churches, an area that we've won work in in the past.
"There was also increased incentives announced for research and development, essentially tax relief, an area we are looking to tap into during this financial year.
"Overall, it was great to hear so many mentions for the North, such as the science investment in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield. Someone has obviously been moaning in the right areas of government."
Richard Threlfall, UK head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG: "City leaders across the country will be drowning their sorrows tonight after the Chancellor offered warm words but nothing of substance on devolution. It is deeply disappointing that the Government has failed to bring forward any proposals for fiscal devolution to England's major city regions, as many had hoped.
"Compared to other countries, the buying power in the hands of UK local government is almost pointlessly small. Without a greater degree of control over local taxes all talk of devolution, investing in our city regions, and rebalancing the UK economy is just hot air."
Jacqueline O'Shea, national director and regional head at GVA, managing agents of Merseyway Shopping Centre in Stockport, said: "Businesses have long been campaigning for an overhaul of the business rates system, so this much needed review of the structure is indeed welcome news, as is the extension of the 2% cap. Retailers in towns such as Stockport are demonstrative of towns and shopping centres across the country that will feel a real impact from the proposed review, with any changes to the current system providing real potential for further growth and regeneration."
Adam Burke, director of rating at the North West office of Colliers International in Manchester: "Today's announcement on business rates amounts to merely a tinkering around the edges of the problem, when a revaluation in 2016 could have been delivered. A reform of the business rates system is all good and well but this just kicks the problem into the long grass – the measures announced add to the confusion and bureaucracy that exist today. Retailers in New Bond Street may be raising a toast to the Chancellor – however, most retailers won't be."
Edward Cooke, director of policy and public affairs at BCSC: "At last, some sense of a commitment to review the structural inadequacies of the business rates system. The devil will be in the detail of course, but we'll be working closely with Treasury Ministers and officials to make sure we get a fair deal for retail and retail property companies.
"It's such a pleasure to see that the Chancellor is listening to an industry whose employment numbers are a huge contributor to the figures he's rightly proud of, and an investor community that can have such a positive social and economic impact on towns and cities across the UK. Now for the hard bit; delivering on that promise."
John Keyes, senior director and head of DTZ Manchester: "This was the last Autumn Statement before the General Election. We are in danger of announcement "fatigue" but the real need now is delivery. On a positive note, the government and wider public sector is developing a long overdue focus on the related themes of promoting economic and housing growth and of delivering reform in public services.
"There remain very real challenges. Economic recovery is not yet supporting strong and consistent occupier demand in many parts of the country beyond London, the South East and the major regional city centres. Outside London, the housing market has not yet achieved pre-recession levels of activity and not enough houses are being built or sold.
"Delivery is the real challenge and there is a real worry that the public sector has lost the experience and expertise to drive forward the necessary transformations at the pace required."
Kieran McLaughlin, director of residential at JLL in Manchester: "The change to banded stamp duty rates in line with the calculation of income tax removes the sticking points within the range of £250,000 to £280,000 and £500,000 to £550,000. For example, previously at £250,000 Stamp Duty was £2,500 which trebles to £7,650 for a £255,000 house purchase, which was always a farcical situation. Under the new regime, £255,000 raises £2,750 in stamp duty which will be a saving of £4,900 upon the outgoing regime so there will be some short term house price inflation at certain price points.
"Secondly, while a buyer may now be content to increase their mortgaged offer for a property purchase by £5,000 to £255,000, which would increase mortgage payments by about £16 per month, they will now benefit from £4,900 of hard cash Stamp Duty savings. This will also help accelerate first time buyers saving for a deposit to come to the market more quickly. Some of these savings will inevitably find their way back to house price inflation as consumer demand increases.
"Even Manchester's city centre market will prosper in the short term. A purchaser about to buy a one bedroom city centre flat for around £140,000 suddenly has £1,000 of savings they don't have to spend on stamp duty which will filter back to house price growth as the market readjusts."