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2nd January 2024

Reflecting on 2023 and looking ahead

A message from Paul Butterworth, the Chamber’s CEO

As 2023 closed, businesses reflected on a tough economic year which featured increased energy prices and high inflation, along with the ripples of Covid and Brexit still dampening long-term growth for SMEs across Wales.

The week leading up to Christmas was a busy business week and retail will feel the bounce the Christmas brings. The announcement that inflation has fallen to 3.9% will be welcome news for many businesses and may start to stimulate more certainty and confidence in 2024.

The Welsh Government also announced their draft budget for 2024-25, outlining the government’s spending plans for the next year with some really difficult decisions to radically redesign public spending plans across Wales.

Key points include:

  • Non-domestic rates, also known as business rates, are charged on most non-domestic properties such as offices, factories, warehouses, shops and pubs with a cap to the non-domestic rates multiplier, a tool used to help calculate business rates, in Wales set to 5% for 2024-25.
  • Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses will receive support for their non-domestic rate bills for a fifth successive year, with the government investing £78m to help these businesses.
  • Some funding from budgets for employability and skills, business and regional economic development, and export, trade and inward investment has been reprioritised.

But the deep cuts to the Wales apprenticeship programme and funding cuts to education will undermine new economic missions and cut the skilled talent pipeline for employers for investment in the next generation outlined in the Future Generations Act. Employers from across Wales will be concerned by the prospect of significant cuts to Wales’ flagship apprenticeship programme which will inevitably reduce opportunities to thousands of young people across Wales and risks a lost generation of skilled Welsh workers for the large scale projects on Wales’ horizon, undermining prospects for new business growth and economic prosperity for Wales.

It is apparent that the future of economic growth lies in the hands of private businesses here in Wales; agile and innovative businesses who keep pushing the boundaries with the support of our brilliant and extensive business ecosystem that Wales should be proud of. Whilst we see the back of 2023 and move into 2024, the shoots of business confidence and growth are starting to appear.

Chambers Wales South East, South West and Mid remains focused on being the business for businesses and committed to developing team Wales nationally and internationally.

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