2019 Business Predictions: Martin Freeman, Chairman, Invest East Midlands

It’s that time of year, when Business Link Magazine invites readers to offer up their forecasts for the year ahead. It has become something of a tradition, given that we’ve been doing this for almost 35 years.

And, while none of us possess a crystal ball, it is uncanny how accurate some of these forecasts have been over the years.

Here we catch up with Martin Freeman, Chairman at Invest East Midlands.

With regard to what will happen in 2019 It is very tempting to simply copy & paste my observations for 2018 – the “don’t read the news” theme remains the same (you need to read it – to fully understand that statement)!

But in addition there are key milestones in 2019 that will impact on both our personal & business aspirations, and exit from the European Union at 11.00pm on March 29th is only one of them.

For example we are due a significant rise in Council tax this year, average no doubt will be 3% but in truth most local authorities in the East Midlands need a good deal more to simply catch up on lacking provision and need new capital for infrastructure development. Payment costs for this will be seen before the new April tax year and residents are unlikely to take into account their increased personal earning allowance and any additional wage/benefit/pension increases that will ease contribution – no doubt this topic will have a potential for discontent.

Also student loan repayments for those graduating in April will be hit by a double whammy of the RPI+3.3% September 2018 increase, the impact of which may also likely be cause of discontent.

HS2 will be of increasing significance to the East Midlands in 2019, in particular the cost implications of securing property that quite clearly continues to be seriously underestimated in value. Could it indeed be enough of a controversy to seriously derail the “East Midlands Hub?”

On the topic of property values, in general the Region has held up well against the value reductions seen in London & the South East. 2019 though will see a number of significant new residential and commercial development sites both started and coming onto the market and this will have a real impact on the resale market. Sellers and landlords of both residential and commercial property will have to be more realistic about value expectation or they simply will not sell/rent!

In terms of investment it is true we will see a number of our East Midlands based multi national companies moving all or parts of their business to other locations in the EU, they have already started and likely would have done it anyway, its also true we will likely see reduced inward Foreign Direct Investment in 2019 but this will more than balance out with increased numbers of indigenous investors looking to establish/relocate to the Region, maybe not a big deal for UK Plc but a continuing economic advantage to the Great East Midlands for who I predict 2019 will be interesting, exciting and economically satisfying – that is as long as you remember not to read or listen to the news (other than Business Link magazine of course!).