Winners and losers in emergency budget

Tuesday's emergency budget was a game of two halves for the horticulture industry - better overall than might have been expected for the sector's commercial enterprises, notwithstanding the unwelcome sharp increase in VAT.

But it was just about as bad as could be expected for local authority green space managers as the coalition Government confirmed plans to freeze council tax - a move that when combined with the expected heavy cuts to come to local authority grants will only pile the pressure on cash-strapped councils to radically rethink provision of non ring-fenced services. The boldest of responses will be needed to ride this wave. As parks consultant Sid Sullivan warned this week: "Fortune favours the brave, if you are imaginative you will still be here with a reasonable service. But if you are timid it could be (savage)."

By contrast, winning the most plaudits from landscapers and growers serving commercial landscape markets was chancellor George Osborne's commitment to maintain capital spending, which he gave with a pointed reference to the errors of the early 1990s "when the then Government cut capital spending too much - perhaps because it is easier to stop new things being built than to cut the budgets of existing programmes".

His commitment was taken as a sign that monies already allocated will be honoured and will be welcome news in a sector that has depended heavily on public sector building programmes - and despite some stirrings of life in the private sector housing market, continues to wait for a true private sector recovery.

Most unwelcome for the commercial sector was the VAT increase. Despite this though, sweeteners for business including the four-year plan to cut corporation tax to 24 per cent, lower National Insurance payments for small firms and modest cuts to investment allowances were taken as a sign that the chancellor is serious about creating the conditions for a private sector-led recovery.

Whether he has done enough to ensure his goal remains the million-dollar question, particularly in the wake of the Office of Budget Responsibility's decision to downgrade the UK's growth forecast on the basis of his budget.

Email: kate.lowe@haymarket.com

www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/leader for recent leaders


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