The dust is still settling on the detail from The Budget but here’s three areas which could have some impact on the media and creative sector here in the North:
A surprise announcement revealed that the government is to consult on tax relief for local newspapers with the chancellor George Osborne saying “local newspapers are a vital part of community life, but they’ve had a tough time – so the government is announcing a consultation on how to can provide them with tax support.”
That’s sure to be welcome news to the big companies (Trinity Mirror, Newsquest, Johnston Press) who operate newspapers across the North of England and who have been experiencing job losses, closures and re-structures in recent months.
Ashley Highfield, chief executive of regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press has already welcomed it. He told The Guardian: “We are delighted the chancellor has recognised the crucial role local newspapers play in communities across the country. The consultation on business rates relief is an important recognition of one of the challenges facing the industry.”
The powerful newspaper lobby already benefits from approximately £67.85m of ‘back-door’ public subsidy in the form of regulation around the publication of statutory notices so the detail of this new measure is certain to be pored over throughout the sector.
There was a promise around faster broadband and better mobile networks which could be welcome news, particularly in rural areas, although no detail as yet on locations and deadlines.
The government is investing up to £600 million to deliver better mobile networks, and is announcing a new ambition that ultrafast broadband of at least 100 megabits per second should become available to nearly all UK premises in the country.
Finally, that Budget bingo favourite – the Northern Powerhouse. The chancellor said there would be support for all regions across the UK.
“Working with Transport for the North, the government will look at rolling out better roads, quicker journeys and improved rail connections between the major cities of the north, as part of the government’s plan to build a Northern powerhouse.
“The government is also giving even more powers to local areas, with a new devolution deal for things like transport, business support and skills for West Yorkshire, and more planning powers for London.
Ten Enterprise Zones across the country are also being supported to go further to create growth and jobs.”
The first reaction to those moves can only be described as underwhelmed. Dr Mike Kelly, founder and CEO of Manchester-based DataCentred, said: “Infrastructure investment is crucial to creating a connected country but if the Chancellor wants to improve growth and economic standards outside London he must ensure the North is sufficiently digitally connected.
“We must encourage a creative ecosystem of pro-Northern groups, individuals and businesses across the public and private sector which can learn from each other, share skills and resources and capitalise on the disruptive growth which follows.
“Only when the North is seen as a significant ‘tech city’ competitor will we have a truly connected country and a thriving Northern Powerhouse.”
How was it for you? Good for your business? A sop to the North? Whatever your view, we’d love to hear it via the comments below.