Budget 2018: National business reaction

October 29, 2018

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn looked to Halloween for inspiration for her reaction, saying Philip Hammond brought “more treats than tricks for business” in today’s Budget.

“It recognises the enormous contribution enterprise has made to balancing the UK’s books through jobs, pay and tax and responds to many of the recommendations that firms have made,” she said.

“But while the Chancellor has reduced some of biggest barriers to growth, he has missed some opportunities.”

While the Institute for Directors welcomed “individual positive measures” in the Budget it said it ultimately pulled its punches and firms would be “deeply disappointed” over its approach to Brexit.

Director general Stephen Martin said: “Going into this Budget, IoD members urged the Chancellor to prioritise help for Brexit preparations. It is not enough simply to announce a potential ‘no-deal Brexit Budget’, businesses need to get ready now.

“While we hope the Chancellor’s confidence that there will be Brexit deal is well-placed, firms have to look at all possible scenarios and will be deeply disappointed to see no funds have been allocated to helping them map out potential outcomes.

“The Chancellor also acknowledged the scale of the productivity challenge, but most of the measures announced today were too small to even make it into the main speech.”

However, British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director-general Dr Adam Marshall said Mr Hammond had listened to business and addressed many of the issues it raised.

“The Chancellor responded directly to the BCC’s calls for bold incentives to turbo-charge business investment, for steps to support high street businesses struggling with business rates, and for measures that cut the cost of apprenticeships for SMEs.

“Philip Hammond has sent important and positive signals to businesses across the UK, many of whom have been wavering on investment and hiring.

“Crucially, the Chancellor has avoided major increases to business tax to fund the government’s spending priorities, which would have undermined the confidence boost to firms from his commitments to supporting enterprise and growth.” 

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) – whose membership is drawn from firms employing fewer than 50 people – gave the Chancellor five out of 10.

Managing director Ian Cass said the FSB welcomed the Chancellor’s moves to support high streets up and down the country, especially the commitment to cutting business rates by a third for some, but asked for this to be extended beyond the two years announced in the Budget.

While Brexit uncertainty is a real issue, Mr Cass believes that productivity and late payments are the real issues holding the British economy back.

“We need urgent action from the government relating to late payments. Small businesses are struggling because the larger businesses they supply are delaying their payments and we will continue to lobby both the Department for Business and the Small Business Commissioner to deal with this,” he said.

“On productivity, we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to replace European funding for the British Business Bank if needed, and to extend start-up loans until 2021. But he could have gone further to support small and medium sized businesses, including by simplifying our complicated tax system.”

The Forum is concerned that the government still shows little real understanding of small business and the issues it faces, and because of this is still focussed on the symptoms rather than dealing with the disease, the short term fixes rather than the long term issues.






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