Horticultural Trades Association reaction to Autumn Budget

Fran Barnes, Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) Chief Executive responds to the Autumn Budget Statement.

Houses of Parliament
Photo by Hooman R. on Unsplash

“Today’s Autumn Budget has acknowledged the need to support businesses to invest for the future. We welcome the response to our asks on Business Rates to ease the Spring cliff edge by extending small business and retail reliefs, full-expensing and measures to support the self-employed. However, we cannot ignore that businesses across the UK horticulture industry have been feeling the mounting pressures of inflation, energy costs, skills shortages, regulatory changes, climate change, and fluctuating consumer confidence over many months. With this background, the near 10 per cent minimum wage hike is a new hurdle when businesses are already facing many workforce-related challenges.

“Access to a workforce is critical for UK horticulture. We must be able to benefit from the Autumn Statement commitments to increase apprenticeships in order to help us recruit for the evolving breadth of roles in our sector and the changing skills needs of the industry. Horticultural businesses also need to gain from the announced expedited planning processes so that the value of gardens and green spaces can be maximised in planning reform.

“When it comes to trade and borders, we are disappointed the Chancellor did not respond to the HTA’s asks on the April 2024 border changes. We need action and support to keep the UK cross-border trade in plants working. In 2022, the UK imported £753m of plants, bulbs and seeds. The trade and economic risks associated with delays and lost loads are hugely concerning.

“Green industries, as the Chancellor acknowledges, are key to future growth. We urge the government to back sectors like environmental horticultural, the original green industry, which is ideally placed to deliver even more to achieve UK net-zero, innovation, levelling-up, and green growth ambitions. Our sector contributes £28.8bn to GDP and supports 674,000 jobs across the supply chain, from growers to garden centres and manufacturers to landscapers; we must not be overlooked”, said Fran Barnes, Chief Executive HTA.