What will 2016 hold in store for businesses and people in Newbury? Mike Farwell, a partner at Newbury accountants and business advisers James Cowper Kreston, gazes into his financial crystal ball to see what 2016 might bring.
The world today is characterised by continuous change, and the future for Newbury can’t be considered without looking at national and international issues. So the easiest prediction to make is to expect uncertainty for both individuals and businesses.
And the second easiest prediction is that the best way to deal with uncertainty is to expect it, embrace the challenges and make the most of it.
The recent government spending review brought some interesting announcements, and I can see repercussions in coming months and years.
For less well-off families the reversal of some of the planned tax credit cuts will be welcomed, although there will still be a lot of welfare cuts in the next few years. Life will remain difficult for some.
Education spending has largely been protected, and there is a continued emphasis on apprenticeships, so I predict that opportunities will remain for young people to get on, particularly given staff shortages being experienced by many local businesses.
Transport will continue to be a big issue and local and national governments will be under pressure to improve things for individuals and businesses.
But don’t expect any immediate improvements.
Infrastructure changes always happen very slowly and 2020 may be a more realistic timescale.
By then local road improvements will, hopefully, have happened and electrification of the railway line will be completed. Crossrail, which should also be operational by 2020, will give a great service from Reading right into the centre of London and will help Newbury commuters.
Finally, it is worth noting that in terms of local traffic, the position in Newbury is far better than in some other places, as those travelling into Reading or Oxford in the morning will be able to testify.
The competition between towns and cities in the South of England is often intense, and manifested in decisions about where to shop, where to live and where to locate a business.
Many people were unhappy when a new location in Newbury could not be found for Bayer, when this highly respected business announced it was moving to Reading.
We should expect a great more debate on this issue with Newbury coming under challenge from Reading, in particular, which often features in surveys as the most prosperous city in the UK after London and is a real regional powerhouse.
Newbury needs to consider how it fits into the overall picture and whether it might actually benefit from its proximity to Reading.
The government is also putting a lot of emphasis on housing, and we should expect to see the usual debate in Newbury about how many and where they should go.
Newbury, and West Berkshire as a whole, will remain a popular place to live, and property prices are likely to remain buoyant.
Finally, we expect the European debate to intensify and people in Newbury need to assess how they fit in.
Whilst individuals may hold differing personal views, most businesses in the Thames Valley think that EU membership is a good thing for their business.
Newbury is well placed to take advantage of European opportunities as a town with strong existing ties, a location close to London and Heathrow and a highly-skilled labour force working for some dynamic and internationally-focused businesses.
Mike Farwell is a partner at James Cowper Kreston in Newbury. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org