Budget: Jobs risk, says chamber chief

THE Budget tax hike was a slap in the face for employers and could hit local jobs said Maidstone Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bill Alder. Business had not expected to have to share with individuals the burden of extra NHS funding and it had come as a nasty shock.

"It wasn't expected and will undoubtedly have an impact on business," said Mr Alder whose chamber is part of the Kent Gateway group with 1,500 members across Maidstone, West Kent, Ashford and Shepway. "We believe it's particularly important that business taxation is not increased, particularly in the current climate, so that the UK can remain as competitive as possible at home and abroad. Any increase in taxation is completely unwelcome."

Mr Brown had gone back on his promise not to raise taxes. "This is a tax on income, you can't dress it up any other way," said Mr Alder. Because there was no ceiling on NI contributions, it was "effectively like 1p on income tax".

"While we applaud the Government's efforts to create an enterprise culture, he's hit us with a big slap with this tax," he said. Sole traders stood to gain from some of the other measures in the Budget, notably the scrapping of corporation tax for firms with taxable profits of less than £10,000. But larger firms would suffer from the NI rise.

"Undoubtedly it is going to hit the big employers and it will have an effect on salary expectations and it may even cost some jobs," said Mr Alder. "We've got quite a few companies employing over 500 people and it's going to cost them and their employees. It's going to have an impact on the economy, no doubt about it. People will have less to spend.

"We appreciate the sentiment of what it's aimed to do, and while there is to be more accountability by the NHS, we'd like to see something that's workable first before business has to pay for it. Certainly, our members will."

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