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Four ‘take homes’ for the rural sector following the Autumn Budget

Monday (29 October) saw the Chancellor announce the Autumn Budget which has welcomed mixed reviews among the farming and rural community.

Rural broadband

Mr Hammond announced in the budget a significant £200 million investment in piloting new solutions to deploy full fibre internet in rural areas which many have welcomed.

“Although this is a great outcome, it’s vital that this is not a one-off investment and it must be part of a continued effort to deliver better connectivity for all rural businesses,” said NFU president Minette Batters

“According to the latest NFU survey, 59% of farmers felt the broadband speed they received was insufficient for their business.

“We hope that this investment in the National Productivity Investment Fund will be used to address the digital divide between the countryside and urban areas.”

Minimum wage rise

It was announced that the National Living Wage will rise to £8.21/hour from April 2019, which was perhaps more than some people were expecting.

The 4.9% increase from its current level is one that comes at a time when farm businesses are faced with a rising cost base, and the NFU has said that they will continue to engage with the Low Pay Commission on the issue.


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Business Rates

The Chancellor announced reliefs for small retailers on business rates, however, the Budget failed to address the needs of small rural businesses.

President of the CLA, Tim Breitmeyer said that it’s not only high streets which were feeling the impact of the ‘clumsy and unfair rates system’.

“All small businesses need rates relief, especially as they gear up for the uncertainty of Brexit, but the government has failed to recognise the equally pressing needs of small rural businesses.

“The government must carry out a fundamental review of the broken business rates system before the next revaluation in 2021.”

Investment

The Chancellor announced the government would introduce a new Structures and Buildings Allowance for non-residential structures, which the industry has stated will help farmers invest in modern efficient buildings.

In addition to this, Mr Hammond also announced an increase in the Annual Investment Allowance to £1 million but only for a timeframe of two years leaving some disappointed.

Fuel duty was also frozen for the ninth successive year, and thresholds on VAT will remain as they are for at least two more years.

Duties on beer, cider and spirits were also frozen in response for calls to support British pubs.

Of further interest for some is the Woodland Carbon Guarantee Scheme with £60 million set aside to encourage the planting of trees in England to help offset against carbon emissions.

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