With ASKAR SHEIBANI
CEO, Comtek Network Systems UK and chair, DBF
This was the riskiest budget I have ever seen and is very worrying. It has concentrated purely on growth. If it works that would be great. However, if it fails to deliver the country will be in devastatingly deep trouble. I don’t agree with the ideology of making the rich richer to make the poor richer. I also don’t agree that making the big multinationals richer will make our community-based small businesses more profitable.
In North Wales, nearly all the businesses are small and medium sized, so we are not going to benefit from the cut in corporation tax for big businesses and bankers. I also don’t believe borrowing a colossal amount of money to spend rather than to invest in infrastructure is economically sensible and prudent. We have already seen that the market reaction has caused the near collapse of the pound. This will ultimately lead to a massive rise in interest rates and inflation.
However, it was not all bad news. Scraping the unpopular 1.25% rise in National Insurance is welcome news for small struggling businesses. Sadly, they missed the opportunity to scrap the outdated draconian business rates as well. Another announcement that we should welcome is the creation of Investment Zones.
I am a keen believer in special zones. When the UK government announced in early 2011 that they would be creating enterprise zones in England, the Welsh Government seemed initially not very enthusiastic about the idea. There were many negative unfounded rumours from different corners against the enterprise zones. Such rumours included relaxation of planning and employment laws. Considering that Wirral and Daresbury had already been designated as Enterprise Zones, Deeside would have been in great danger if we had been left out.
The business community, led by Deeside Business Forum (DBF), energetically campaigned for Deeside to be awarded Enterprise Zone status. We all worked hard with the support of Flintshire County Council and relayed our voice loud and clear to the Welsh Government to recognise the seriousness of the situation and possible job losses in North East Wales. The Welsh Government listened to our voice and agreed on September 21, 2011 to designate Deeside as an Enterprise Zone. This was a great decision by the Welsh Government. The then economy minister invited me to be the first chairman of the board for the Deeside Enterprise Zone.
Deeside has been one of the most successful Zones in the UK and has created thousands of quality manufacturing jobs for the whole region. History has now repeated itself. The UK government has already designated Liverpool, Cheshire West and Chester as two out of 38 Investment Zones. If we keep silent and do nothing, Deeside and Wrexham will lose out. It would be a crying shame if Welsh Government cannot see the danger we are now facing and decides to choose other areas of Wales in preference to Deeside and Wrexham. There will be tax advantages in the Investment Zones.
As before there will be unfounded negative rumours against the investment zones in Wales. We must resist these negativities. Planning is governed by the Welsh Government, not the UK, as it is a devolved matter. Employment law is governed by the UK government and cannot be altered because of a change in regional status. The DBF with over 2,500 members and supporters, will aggressively campaign and fight for Deeside and Wrexham to be awarded an Investment Zone status. We have gone through this process before, and have a great track record of success.
We need all our MPs, MSs and councillors in Flintshire and Wrexham to join our great battle-hardened resilient business community to campaign with us and lobby both the UK and the Welsh government to recognise the serious economic disadvantages and job losses we would face from the neighbouring English Investment Zones, if our demand were ignored.