by Emma Rawlings, Chief Executive, Somerset Chamber of Commerce.

While the Budget may have provided a small jobs boost and gains for individuals, overall, it was disappointing for business.

Cuts in National Insurance and an increase in the child benefit threshold may bring additional people back into the workforce but a raft of economic challenges remain for businesses.

Increasing the VAT threshold to £90,000 from April will help SMEs in the Chamber network to grow and invest but a more fundamental review is required.

It was also good news that the Chancellor listened to calls for the Recovery Loan Scheme to be extended. Under its new name, the Growth Guarantee Scheme will continue to be a financial lifeline for thousands of businesses to get back on track after recent economic shocks and plan for future growth.

But with a General Election looming, the Government needs to ensure it puts the needs of business front and centre. Inflation, interest rates and staffing shortages are continuing to hamper investment and growth and without these, the economy will continue to stagnate.

And there were no major announcements to help shift the dial on these challenging conditions for business. However, the Chancellor did give his support to the British Chambers of Commerce and Aviva’s business-led programme to unlock the planning system by committing £3m of match funding.

This is a clear signal from Government that it does want to work in partnership with business to solve problems. There is now a real opportunity to make the planning system quicker and more efficient for everyone by giving local authorities more resources to tackle logjams and unlock permissions.

But the clock is now ticking to the General Election – and this Budget could be the last fiscal event before voters go to the polls.