HAMPSHIRE’S business support network has spoken out against government plans for a national insurance rise to help fund health and social care provision.

The Hampshire Chamber of Commerce has said the move “fails to take account of the pressing need for business growth” and is ill-timed as companies navigate their way back post-pandemic.

The Prime Minister announced that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic the UK Government is to introduce a new health and social care levy, based on a 1.25% increase in national insurance (NI) contributions.

Mr Johnson insisted this was a “reasonable and the fair approach” to paying for the reforms – despite breaching a manifesto pledge not to raise NI contributions.

In response, Hampshire Chamber board director Peter Taylor said: “The need for well-funded health and social care provision is recognised. However, asking business to contribute through higher National Insurance contributions now fails to take account of the pressing need for business growth to provide economic stability and revenues for the public purse in the longer term.

“We are at a critical point in our emergence from the pandemic. Businesses are seeking support and encouragement to play their part in the recovery of the economy. Some have built up a significant debt burden and others face the end of government support from the furlough scheme at the end of this month.”

He added: “At a time when we are already seeing higher inflation, supply chain challenges and increasing staff costs in a number of sectors, the planned rise in contributions is an additional outlay which is unlikely to be welcomed by employers.”