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J&PR reports from a 2015 Budget Lunch in Shropshire
09 Jul 2015
by Simon Alton

Movers and shakers from the business community got ringside seats for the 2015 Budget at a special event organised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Shropshire.

The budget lunch took place at The Wroxeter Hotel, near Shrewsbury, on Wednesday (July 8) to coincide with the Chancellor’s Budget speech in Parliament at 12.30pm.

J&PR were there to listen to George Osborne outlining the first Conservative Budget since 1996 and chat to businesses about their immediate reaction.

Here’s J&PR senior account manager, Simon Alton’s take on the day…

As the Budget speech got under way, lunch was served and there was quiet attention as people tucked into a carvery laid on by The Wroxeter’s kitchen staff.

In between mouthfuls of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with lashings of horseradish we discussed Mr Osborne’s speech, and the overriding feeling was one of “wait and see” regarding the majority of announcements.

After some chuckles during Harriet Harmon’s response, particularly for her digs at George Osborne “playing politics so he can move in next door”, it was time for some analysis from the business leaders in the room.

Central to the discussion was the surprise announcement of a new National Living Wage, with most people concerned about how businesses would be able to afford to pay it.

There was also reaction from the Houses of Parliament themselves, as North Shropshire MP, Owen Paterson, called in via a live phone link.

Some local political debate then ensued, with Telford & Wrekin Council leader, Kuldip Sahota clashing with Mr Paterson over the level of cuts to public services in Shropshire.

Mr Paterson was unapologetic and prompted some smiles in the room when he retorted with: “councils have got to be more efficient and stop relying on Government hand-outs.”

So what did we learn? Firstly that The Wroxeter Hotel serves a fantastic carvery, and secondly that the devil is always in the detail of Government Budget announcements.

As experts pore over the small print, I have a feeling Harriet Harmon may have been right when she said this Budget was more about politics than economics. We shall see.

Joining Simon at the Budget Lunch was Madeley Academy 6th-form student, Brad Groves, who is spending a week on work experience at J&PR. We asked him to write about his first experience of watching a Budget speech…

As a 17-year-old, I would not say I’m a massive fan of politics and neither are the rest of my age group.

But now I have been to a convention of businessmen and women from all around Shropshire, watching and discussing the Budget and the latest changes which are going to be happening around the country, I would now say I am a completely and utterly changed teenager – well, sort of!

For one and a half hours, I watched George Osborne talk about why the changes they are making are “beneficial” for the future of the British Empire. If I’m honest, the bits of the broadcast that didn’t fly over my head were interesting, in a sense.

For one, whenever Mr Osborne said something that was perhaps seen as wrong by his opposition, they would start yelling. Half the time I don’t even think they were saying words, they were just making noises.

There were moments when this yelling got out of hand and the Deputy Speaker, sat in his big green chair at the end of the room like the Game of Thrones king Joffrey Baratheon, would stand up and silence the speakers.

What I found odd about the Deputy Speaker was that he reminded me of my year 3 teacher. Not his appearance or his voice, but how he spoke to the politicians. How my teacher spoke to us, was how the Deputy Speaker spoke to them.

What I found especially funny was when the Deputy Speaker would specifically pick out a person from the crowd, addressing them as their official title and (pretty much) tell them off. I imagined it to be how they would have been told off by their school teacher for telling an inappropriate joke in class.

Another part of the Budget that I found quite amusing was the different groups of people that were in the House of Commons. In particular one group. Firstly I noticed that there were about 15 people and none of them had a seat.

I wasn’t sure if this meant they were less important than the rest of the people in the room or however, that they were making some kind of stand (pardon the pun). What I liked most about this group of people were that they seemed to be like the rebels of politicians. You could picture they are the group that everyone hopes don’t turn up to the big events because they’ve caused a bit of trouble in the past.

Looking back over the event, I perhaps didn’t take the most beneficial information from what was said. Instead of the latest laws and regulations being put in place, I looked at more of the satirical side of politics and what weird and odd things were going on, even in some of the most serious and official occasions.

And in a way, I actually enjoyed it.