Best and worst of the Autumn Statement 2015

Now that the Chancellor has revealed his hand, David Galbraith, founder of Swigflasks, runs down his best and worst of the budget from an SMEs point of view.

Here are our best and worst of yesterday’s budget.

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Top three best:

1) 26 new enterprise zones have been created

This is great news. These zones are amazing for inspiring people in the locale and giving immediate local support. The more the better I say.

2) 15k has been devoted to small businesses to hire from the apprentice scheme

Brilliant! As long as there isn’t too much red tape around accessing it, I can’t wait to start taking advantage of this. This isn’t just giving young people jobs, but ensuring they are employed by the right people – small businesses that actually need the assistance, with a short chain of command from management. Great inspiration!

3) £165m has been assured as loans for businesses to innovate

Most are not impressed, but I think loans are a very helpful method for upcoming businesses to put their money where their mouth is. There are too many people receiving grants with ‘pie in the sky thinking’ and a good eye for accessing free money for useless ideas. I just hope these loans don’t come with a three-month application process.

Top three worst:

1) Business rate relief

One of the headlining benefits for small business is rate relief, but rate relief is pretty inconsequential for online businesses like mine, which is one of the fastest growing sectors (and most important for export). Small businesses are making less dependence on property these days.

2) BIS funding cut by 17%

This was very disappointing to see. Hopefully just a spring clean rather than removal of key services. BIS was a really important free resource for me as a small growing business.

3) Every SME digitally registered for tax by 2020

Honestly, I loved the decision that every small business has to be digitally registered for tax by end of decade. So what’s my problem with this? It’s far too long away. The digital world is moving fast and new entrants to self-assessment and business taxation will be surprised to find how archaic the current taxation systems are. They are entirely unapproachable and have such a poor user experience.

And here are some other views on the budget from around the SME world:

Rebekah Wallis, director of people & CR National management, Ricoh UK:

“Corporate behaviour is increasingly under scrutiny. In this day and age, every measure possible should be taken to empower and maintain a strong workforce as the number one priority – the rise in the Living Wage and taking significant measures to hire apprentices, can play a huge part in this.”

“As a proud Living Wage employer and champion of apprentices schemes, we believe that all businesses can play a key role in powering forward the responsible economy of the future. Continued investment and support for the Living Wage from any government, as well as the continued backing of apprenticeship training schemes, will incentivise more young people to move into paid work and to develop their crucial skills sets.”

“Businesses that truly care about their societal impact will invest heavily to attract ambitious new talent and to retain a well-rounded and highly-skilled workforce. We therefore welcome any initiatives to further develop the Living Wage in the UK and we welcome the government’s continued commitment to skills with the new apprenticeship levy.”

Tracy Ewen, managing director of IGF Invoice Finance:

“The government’s announcement of further investment into the apprenticeship programme is a vital step in supporting the next generation of working professionals in the UK. By introducing a business-led body and increasing funding per place, the standard of each apprenticeship should ensure high quality, on-the-job training.”

“Small and medium size businesses must use this opportunity to introduce and excel their apprenticeship programmes to give opportunities to individuals who may not wish to attend higher education, or are simply seeking a change in career. It’s important that apprentices are not used as cheap labour, or merely seen as a forgotten element of a commitment to social responsibility, but should be hired as an equal member of staff worth investing in for the long term. By passing on skills and knowledge, businesses will benefit from valuable members of staff who complement other employees – as well as the activity and success of a team.”

“However, in order for the programme to be a success, the government must look to use some of the additional funding to streamline the process for SMEs to implement the apprenticeship scheme. As well as initiating a greater level of joined-up thinking between further education and businesses, this will more easily connect those students seeking employment with the businesses who have apprenticeships available.”

David Clarke, a partner in the Corporate and Commercial team at IBB Solicitors:

“As part of a bold plan to rebalance the economy and to devolve power back to local leaders, the Chancellor, in the Autumn Statement, outlined his plans to enable local government to be self-sufficient by the end of the Parliament. By permitting local authorities to retain 100% of business rates, abolishing the uniform rate and allowing them to reduce business rates to stimulate growth, local leaders will be able to take responsibility for driving local growth. Any increase in business rates is only possible if used to fund specific infrastructure projects. In the meantime, many small businesses will continue to benefit from existing reliefs.”

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