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What happened in the Budget? 30 expert opinions: Autumn Budget 2018

Philip Hammond announced yesterday the Autumn Budget 2018.

Arriving 5 months before the UK leaves the EU, is the Autumn Budget 2018 even going to matter? Even Philip Hammond has said that a no deal Brexit could derail his Budget plans, but what do you think? We have spoken to the experts to discover how businesses across the UK have taken the announcement.

On austerity

Ibrahim Dogus, small business campaigner and founder of SME4Labour

“This is welcoming news but where is the funding coming from? There are more than five million small businesses in the UK and they are all struggling. We need the government to find and implement long term solutions not just soundbites. The government needs to end austerity and end the pay cap on public sector workers. If it is serious about tackling the challenges faced by small businesses then it needs to help encourage people to spend money locally.”

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary

“Working people cannot be fobbed off again with promises of a better tomorrow that never comes. The budget does not undo the austerity that has devastated public services. And it lacks the investment needed to speed up wage growth after the longest pay squeeze in 200 years.

“People know that public services need much more investment. They feel the consequences of austerity where they live. There’s more crime and less police. There’s longer NHS waiting lists and too few beds. And there’s not enough teachers to educate our kids.

“With Brexit looming, we urgently need a national recovery plan to get the UK fit and ready. We will only have a strong economy and safe communities if we rebuild our public services. And we must invest in our industrial base to create well-paid steady jobs in the towns across Britain where they’re needed most.”

Dr Tony Syme, expert in macroeconomics and international finance at the University of Salford Business School

“This was supposed to be the budget to signal the end of austerity and the 5% increase in the personal tax allowance and 8% increase in the Higher Rate Threshold certainly exceed the rate of inflation, so there are reasons to be happy for 32 million taxpayers.

“But there are two reasons to wary. First, what about Brexit? Only yesterday, Philip Hammond said that a new Budget would need to be set if there was a no-deal Brexit.

“Yet, following the intervention of No. 10 earlier today which dismissed that suggestion, there was hardly a mention of Brexit in today’s Budget speech. The elephant is still firmly in the room. Second, the OBR’s forecast for economic growth to not exceed 1.6% over the next five years means that, for all today’s promises of £30.5 billion additional spending over that period, there is a serious problem of how to pay for this in the future. Unless the economy grows sufficiently, any increase in government funds needed to pay for these proposals will not materialise.

“Of all the EU countries, only Denmark has a lower growth rate, but it is still forecast to grow faster than the UK over the next few years. Without economic growth, austerity cannot end. Here is the nub of the problem. Recent growth within the UK economy has been fuelled by consumer expenditure. The household savings rate is currently 4.4%, but the average since 2000 is 8% and across the 1980 and 1990s, it averaged over 11%. There was capacity within household budgets to spend more and so boost the economy.

“However, that capacity is almost exhausted now and, despite the tax cuts announced today, the Budget should really have focussed on policies to increase productivity. With higher levels of productivity growth, both Treasury and household incomes can rise and debt be reduced. Without policies to increase productivity, austerity is not going away any time soon.”

On £695m for apprenticeship funding

Ben Rowland, co-founder of Arch Apprentices

“Arch Apprentices are delighted by the government’s proposal to announce a £695m initiative to help small firms hire apprentices, with their proposed contribution now reduced from 10% to 5%. We have been strong advocates of the apprenticeship reforms that the Government has introduced, and truly believed that they will have a big impact on resolving the growing skills gaps in the UK.

“It’s brilliant that the government are taking steps to reinforce apprenticeships as the way to boost skills and productivity and we hope employers will increasingly recognise them as an opportunity to accelerate their business performance and bring new life to their teams. Apprenticeships have been proven to create enthusiastic, loyal employees who report greater levels of satisfaction and are more likely to stay at the company long after their apprenticeship has finished.

“The UK is facing major issues surrounding productivity and a lack of skilled workers. We see the government’s belief in apprenticeship as the real solution to these problems. Through these changes, we will train a workforce fit for any future.”

Dr Jonathan Owens, lecturer in operations management at the University of Salford Business School

“£695m for apprenticeships levies with smaller companies will be reduced from 10% to 5%. Allocation of money to support training for the young people is always a positive asset, however despite the extra £80m allocated in the spring budget, many companies; especially small companies; have struggled to get to grips with the new system. 

“Therefore, the hope that the levy would help fix the skills shortage has not really resulted, because many companies have struggled to understand the new system and have simply just given up. Unless, this is addressed the levy could become a failure for industry, but a success for government, as it can keep the unspent money, in this case up to £695m.”

On entrepreneurs relief being extended

Richard Coleman, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys

“The Chancellor’s clear message is that entrepreneurs remain at the heart of the British economy and that Entrepreneurs Relief remains a valuable incentive.

“The extension of the minimum holding period from 1 to 2 years is unlikely to affect the majority of genuine entrepreneurs, whilst excluding the application of the relief to those whose investment has, in the view of the government, been too short term.”

Richard Dillea, director at Mazars

“An increase to the annual investment allowance for 2 years should provide tax relief in the year of expenditure to SMEs for qualifying capital expenditure of up to £1m (accelerating tax relief and providing a year one tax saving of up to £190k) and they may also be entitled to claim allowances for expenditure on buildings. The chancellor’s announcement of the commitment to entrepreneurs’ relief will also be well received, although the extension of the minimum qualifying period from 12 months to 24 months will make the relief more difficult to obtain.”

Richard Godmon, tax partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP

“The Chancellor’s decision to retain entrepreneur’s relief is a clear indication that the Government recognises the importance of entrepreneurial investment in driving economic growth. However, the decision to tighten up on eligibility is going to force entrepreneurs to take a more considered and planned approach.

“Specifically, the measures will encourage longer term investment in businesses. If investors don’t think they will qualify by the implementation date, they may need to either bring forward or delay sales. Either way, they will need to get their timing right.

“The changes could also have a knock-on impact on EMI schemes – may need to adjust date at which issue share options to employees – a minimum 24 months in advance of any business sale.”

On Brexit

Mike Taylor, managing director of Accelerating Experience

“The reality is this is a ‘phoney’ Budget for UK businesses. Until the Chancellor knows the outcome of Brexit negotiations, any plans he puts in place are subject to considerable change; there’s every chance we will see another Budget in six months’ time. UK businesses were certainly on Mr Hammond’s agenda, but they were not at the top by any means. The £200m commitment from the British business bank, the business rate relief for retailers and the additional funding for apprenticeships will provide some support. But it is hardly the pro-business Budget that many leaders have hoped for, given the level of uncertainty they are operating in. So it is vital that businesses control what they can, preparing for March 29th  by investing time and money.”

Niels Turfboer, managing director, Spotcap

“There were several interesting ideas mentioned in the Budget that will impact the future of UK’s 5.7 million small businesses. For example, the adoption allowance and reforms to the small business rate relief and the future high streets fund. 

“Of course, the Budget comes in the context of Brexit and looming uncertainty. It’s important to remember that firms cite the domestic economy as their main barrier to growth. Any initiatives that reduce the cost burden for SMEs will provide some stability and are likely to have a positive impact on their ability to thrive and scale.”

Luke Davis, CEO and founder, IW Capital

“In what may either be the most crucial or the most redundant statement prior to Brexit, it cannot be denied that Chancellor Philip Hammond has provided due acknowledgment to a nation of entrepreneurs who will lead the charge for a buoyant private sector post-Brexit. The UK’s alternative finance arena, albeit buoyant, will only flourish to its optimum capacity if fiscal and policy-led initiatives such as business rates, Entrepreneurs’ Relief, VAT, and corporation tax are addressed head-on, particularly with Brexit around the corner.

“A cookie-cutter approach for what is one of the most diverse spectrums of business to exist globally is destined to fail, but what Hammond has addressed in today’s statement is the exact opposite. By clearly identifying superior support structures for start-ups, such as the Digital Services Tax and slashing business rates for retailers under the £51,000 cap highlights the Government’s continuing support for growing businesses. 

“I am reassured by many of the measures announced in today’s Budget – in particular, the feasibility study into DC pension funds directed to high-growth SMEs and new business investment measures. The UK’s entrepreneurial economy is well equipped for a resilent post-Brexit future.”

Chirag Shah, CEO of Nucleus Commercial Finance

“We welcome the collection of measures announced today that support UK SMEs as they strive to deliver growth. It’s essential that hard working SME owners know the Government supports them and the contribution they make to the economy. Plans to ensure the continued availability of funding in a post-Brexit world will help to ease uncertainties, and those businesses keeping our high streets alive will benefit from the rate cut which eases their tax burden.”

Nicky Goringe Larkin, managing director, Goringe Accountants

“The Chancellor’s Autumn Budget was a surprisingly positive one pointing to the end of austerity and forecasting that the economy will remain in growth.

“But the big question in the room is Brexit. All the points made in the Budget were based on an assumption that Britain will get a Brexit Deal, and if it’s a No Deal, we can expect another full-blown budget in the Spring next year and the possibility of Britain facing recession.

“Until we know more on the status of an EU deal, companies and individuals can take much reassurance from an increase in spend and forecasted growth in this year’s Autumn Budget

“A freeze on the VAT threshold will be a big relief to many businesses, and SMEs in particular will benefit greatly from the continued annual employment allowance of £3,000 per employee from April 2020 and an annual investment allowance of £200,000 to £1 million.”

On funding for the British Business Bank

Richard Dillea, director at Mazars

“Additional funding to the British Business Bank to replace EU funding may also allay some fears of businesses who have relied upon EU grants / funding in the past. It was also announced that SME businesses could benefit from reduced contributions for apprenticeships and also a reformed employment allowance, potentially reducing the costs of employment.”

On IR35 reform

Chris Bryce, chief executive officer, IPSE

“The Chancellor has today forced the self-employed into a holding pattern of despair, as they await the introduction of controversial tax changes which could force them out of business from April 2020. 

“The Chancellor’s smash-and-grab approach to taxing the smallest businesses is short-termism on steroids.

“It is a short-term tax grab that will do lasting damage to the economy by taxing out of existence the smallest and most agile businesses.

“These are the very businesses the government and large corporations will need to call upon to provide the specialist skills to navigate our way through Brexit.

“This fresh raid on the self-employed comes only a month after the government backtracked on its pledge to abolish Class 2 NICs, costing freelancers an average of £150 per year.

“The Chancellor’s budget record is stuck on repeat: go for the self-employed, go for the self-employed.

“The Chancellor says this is about tackling non-compliance, but the government’s idea of what ‘non-compliance’ looks like has been overturned by the courts in 75 per cent of cases in the last decade.

“The off-payroll rules are so complex and crude that genuinely self-employed people will be swept up by the government’s smash-and-grab mentality and in many cases taxed out of operation.

“This will have a chilling effect on entrepreneurialism in the UK: if you’re thinking about striking out on your own, as a white van man or a one-woman band, you’ll always be looking over your shoulder, wondering when the government will be coming after you.

“These measures are also profoundly anti-business and anti-competitive. Large, multinational companies who engage contractors will now have the power to unilaterally alter the tax affairs of the smallest businesses – the self-employed.

“The rules also allow big businesses to push their National Insurance obligations onto the self-employed, who end up being taxed like employees without any employment rights.

“Once these smallest businesses have been forced out, the likes of the Big Four service companies – who don’t have to worry about IR35 – will swoop in and pick up all the contracts.

“The self-employed contribute a staggering £271 billion to the UK economy each year, and give the country one of its greatest competitive advantages – flexibility.

“The government’s smash-and-grab mentality will therefore punish the overwhelming majority of genuinely self-employed people, heap a massive administrative burden onto businesses at a time of Brexit uncertainty, and also undermine one of the UK’s most dynamic and productive sectors.”

Nigel Morris, employment tax director at MHA MacIntyre Hudson

“Reform of the IR35 rules is seen as a less politically controversial way to raise money for the Treasury, in the absence of Parliamentary support for an increase in National Insurance Contributions (NIC) from the self-employed.

“What’s concerning is that the consultation this move is based on is too narrow in scope, ruling out some previous options that had real merits. The Government needs to be open minded in how it delivers continued IR35 reform, the public sector roll out has not gone smoothly and it’s important these lessons are taken on board.

“We welcome the move to delay implementation until April 2020, and to limit it to large and medium sized businesses – we could never see that the private sector or HMRC would be ready to implement the changes next year. The change of plan also reduces what would have been an unnecessary burden on small businesses.”

Seb Maley, Qdos Contractor CEO

“For all of the Government’s promises to support independent workers, by announcing private sector IR35 reform this administration has shown yet again that it is more focused on squeezing the most amount of tax out of contractors, not necessarily the right amount.

“There’s no evidence to show that public sector changes have worked, while CEST – HMRC’s IR35 tool – is incapable is assessing status accurately. On top of this, the taxman’s atrocious track record in IR35 court cases demonstrates that HMRC struggles to understand the very legislation it created. For the Government to extend reform without addressing these existing issues is irresponsible, albeit not particularly surprising.

“We advise that medium and large businesses in the private sector get to work immediately – because contrary to speculation – these changes are manageable. And we certainly can’t pin hopes on the Government performing yet another tax U-turn.

“Given the size of the task ahead, it’s vital the businesses and intermediaries engaging contractors ensure they have the skills and expertise to make accurate IR35 assessments on a case by case basis well in advance of April 2020.

“Should engagers avoid making risk averse decisions, prioritising well-informed and individual ones instead, contractors will be able to continue working outside IR35 and the businesses engaging them will minimise their risk.”

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent

“The announcement that IR35 changes will be extended to the private sector is a real blow for the UK’s self-employed workers and, in particular, contractors. Once again, the government is making the unfair assumption that many of these people are ‘fake’ self-employed workers who do not pay their fair share of tax, which is simply not the case.

“The reality is that the overwhelming majority of contractors are honest, hard-working business owners who face far greater risks than their employed counterparts do. They enjoy none of the employment rights or the security that employed workers have, so there must be some recognition for this, unless the government wants to slow the growth of this very important part of the UK economy. I believe that extending these IR35 changes into the private sector will be a big mistake that will unnecessarily hurt a huge number of contractors.”

On the increase in the Annual Investments Allowance

Philip Salter, founder of The Entrepreneurs Network

“To help stimulate business investment, the government will increase the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) to £1m for all qualifying investment in plant and machinery made from 1 January 2019 until 31 December 2020.

“This will be a welcome announcement for business owners looking to invest, but by making it temporary the Government is failing to offer businesses the stable environment they need to properly plan for the future. Over recent years the AIA has yo-yoed from £100,000 down to £25,000, up to £200,000, up to £500,000, down to £200,000, and now temporarily up to £1m. This is the epitome of business uncertainty.”

Mike Cooper, partner, Owner Managed Business group at Moore Stephens

“This is a significant and welcome increase in the Annual Investment Allowance, despite the measure only lasting for a short amount of time.”

“It seems that the short-time frame is to encourage businesses to keep investing ahead of Brexit.”

“There are already signs that Brexit has led to businesses putting off their investment decisions. If businesses stop investing it will drag down economic growth.”

“The number of capital allowance claims have fallen over the past year, showing a stimulus was needed to get investment going.”

Carl D’Ammassa, group managing director business finance, Aldermore

“It goes without saying that we welcome the increase in the investment allowance from £200,000 to £1m for two years. This will go a long way to stimulate SME business investment and therefore improve their long-term prospects. At Aldermore, we pride ourselves on providing alternative finance options to UK small businesses – the bedrock of the UK economy.

“As we head into 2019, it is vital that businesses and the government work hand in hand to ensure SMEs are the driving force behind future economic growth and it’s great that the Chancellor has come up trumps.”

On boosts to R&D spending

Jordan Morrow, global head of data literacy, Qlik

“The uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the country’s weak productivity growth are a black cloud looming above British businesses. In recent Budgets, the Government announced investments in a number of technologies to drive productivity and growth in the UK: Osborne highlighted the power of big data, while Hammond announced billions of pounds of investment in AI.

“Today is no different, with the Chancellor proclaiming that we can solve the productivity challenge if we embrace the future, announcing a further £1.6bn in new investments for the modern industrial strategy and £150m for fellowships to attract the brightest talent from around the world.

“However, to truly reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Government must ensure that it not only attracts the best technical expertise and invests in technological development, but empowers the entire nation to feel more comfortable with data and the technologies that will underpin the future of work and ensure that the UK is a thriving technology innovator. With just one in five UK workers confident in their ability to read, understand and communicate with data, British businesses aren’t currently in a position to harness the opportunity presented by these new technology investments.

“But the opportunity is massive. According to the Data Literacy Index, organisations with a strong corporate Data Literacy have a 3-5% higher enterprise value – a potential increase for large enterprises of between $320 and $534 million. And it improves all metrics of corporate performance, including productivity and revenue growth.

“Investing in new technologies and highly-technical skills aren’t enough for the UK to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Data will be its universal language, so a firm commitment is needed from the Government to support the upskilling all UK workers in data literacy so they can harness existing investments by better interpreting, analysing and interrogating data for more robust business outcomes.

“Furthermore, as technologies such as AI take hold of every aspect of our lives, having the data skills to be able to ask questions of data without the restrictions dictated by machines will be key to future-proofing the UK’s workforce across every industry.”

Philip Salter, founder of The Entrepreneurs Network

“A significant amount (£1.6bn) has been allocated to increasing the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Among other things, the Government is taking a punt on quantum technologies, nuclear fusion, artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technologies. It will also put another £115m into the Digital Catapult, which has centres in the North East, South East and Northern Ireland, and the Medicines Discovery Catapult in Cheshire.

“While there are strong arguments that at current R&D investment levels increasing Government spending could leads to positive economic spillovers, we need to ensure that we get value for money. For example, just last year the Digital Catapults were heavily criticised in a BEIS commissioned review by Ernst & Young. The devil will be in the implementation.”

Richard Dillea, director at Mazars

“The generosity and conditions surrounding the relief for acquiring ‘IP rich’ businesses are yet to be seen, however, relief for capital expenditure on such businesses would reduce the ‘after tax cost’ and may instigate further investments / transactions. Businesses relying upon R&D tax relief will be disappointed that the relief will be limited in line with their PAYE expenditure (claims in relation to employee intensive R&D projects could be impacted).”

On the Chancellor’s plan to impose a 2% digital services tax on ‘tech giants’

Jonathan Richards, CEO and founder at breatheHR

“The Autumn Budget, although uncertain in the face of Brexit, spelled good news for British entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs.

“The introduction of a Digital Services Tax – targeted at tech giants with revenues of over £500m rather than small UK companies – will help boost this vital sector of the economy, ensuring that the UK remains one of the best places to start a tech business. It will encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to take the leap when starting out, and crucially, not put off investors from backing budding new businesses.”

Sam Dumitriu, research director of The Entrepreneurs Network

“The Chancellor may live to regret making the tax system even more complex. Corporation Tax needs updating, but any reform should focus on fixing the general rules, rather than papering over the cracks in the status quo. Singling out ‘tech giants’ may lead to UK SMEs paying more to advertise through social media and because the tax is levied on revenue not profits could unfairly disadvantage firms who are still raising money through equity finance.”

Nick Felton, SVP, MHR Analytics

“Overall, today’s budget has been good news for UK businesses, with pledges to empower infrastructure, slash business rates for retailers and drive uptake of digital skills. Whilst the introduction of a new digital services tax will sound alarm bells for some in the tech sector, we are yet to hear the specifics of how this measure will work, other than it will be targeted exclusively at larger organisations.

“What is clear is that with Brexit on the horizon next year, many organisations are preparing for a period of uncertainty, with research suggesting that two thirds are considering boosting IT spending as a precautionary measure. There needs to be more detail in the budget small print about how companies can prepare for these challenges, by boosting technical capabilities and putting data at the heart of financial planning and sustainability.”

On additional business rates relief for small high-street retailers

Carl Holloway, co-founder of Rotaready

“A reduction in business rates is welcome news for the High Street as traditional brands strive to compete with the online giants, but it doesn’t help with ever-increasing wage bills and costly staff turnover. Staffing is a business’ biggest operational expense, so investing these savings in technology that can reduce costs and further level the playing field are crucial for survival. The ability to accurately forecast demand and align staffing levels which modern technology provides means businesses benefit from a reduction in labour bills and streamlining their operations, while staff benefit from greater flexibility and a work life-balance. Retailers that are already embracing modern technology are arguably the ones thriving in a harsh and competitive retail environment, while others are struggling to survive.”

Laurentiu Ghenciu, VP EMEA of retail and ecommerce expert 2Checkout

“The government spending plan, laid out in today’s Autumn Statement, intends to help brick and mortar retailers to stave off threats from the likes of Amazon. However, although a step in the right direction, this still raises the question of how smaller retailers will cope going forward. How else can they stop themselves from becoming defunct?

“Retailers must think of and plan for digital transformation if they are to stay competitive, and learning from online businesses, especially those who sell internationally and “put their eggs into more than one basket”, is a good way to start.

“Tools such as localisation, including accepting local payment options, support in multiple languages, ability to sell across channels, and flexibility to mix business models (for example selling physical goods such as groceries or office supplies on a subscription model), become increasingly critical.”

Andy Melia, head of place and impact at Business in the Community

“Today’s announcement by the Chancellor will come as a relief to the UK’s high streets, as well as the communities based around them. Modernising planning can support a shift in revitalising town centres across the UK, benefitting individuals, business and society as a whole and helping local communities to grow and thrive. The cut in business rates for firms with a rateable value below £50,000 will also be welcome news to Britain’s 5.7 million small businesses, who are the backbone of communities around the country.”

Grant Coleman, vice-President and market director for UK, Nordics and Benelux at Emarsys

“News in today’s Budget that the Government are to reduce business rates and inject £1.5bn to boost the high street will certainly come as a relief to some retailers. But sadly this won’t be enough to be a saviour for the industry on its own. For retailers to succeed in the fast-paced, highly competitive market they currently operate in, they must look at implementing a range of tactics in order to secure customers – they can no longer rely on brand loyalty or footfall alone to drive sales, as they once could.

“Those retailers who succeed need to look at best of breed tactics across their online and physical stores, drawing on customer data and insights to engage with customers in a personalised way. The face of shopping has changed and smart retailers are getting ahead by adapting their strategy to meet new demands. These days it’s far easier to click-and-collect, try clothes on at home, get a second opinion on your phone and send them back for free if they’re not right. Consumers need to get an exceptional (and Instagram-worthy) experience to a) leave the house and b) engage with retailers over spending time in bars and restaurants. Apple was the first to understand how to use a physical space to inspire brand loyalty, and the automotive world is also leading on delivering multi-sensory and experiential stores to drive advocacy. Smart retailers will make physical stores or pop-ups a destination that acts as a marketing tool as much as a sales tool. This will create a true omnichannel experience alongside personalised, AI-driven digital content which treats the customer as an individual.

“Underpinning the new world of retail is data. Without connecting online and offline data to understand the customer, retailers will fail. And with tools such as AI now a part of the marketing mix, retailers have the opportunity to build data-based engagements with customers at the click of a button. And it’s this type of engagement that consumers are crying out for. In fact, 84% of customers are now aware that AI is becoming a staple in their shopping experience, and 61% of consumers want offers or recommendations from brands they regularly use to be tailored to them and their interests. With GDPR now in full swing, it’s essential that businesses understand how data needs to be correctly handled. It is a new way to make sure brands are using data responsibly. ‘Opting in’ to retail marketing will lead to better, more personalised experiences. But brands first need to prove they can be trusted to use data wisely.”

Dr Jonathan Owens, lecturer in operations management at the University of Salford Business School

“Is £650m going to be enough to stop the downward spiral on the UK high street? The main advantage of this extra money seems to favour small retailers and not the large. Shoppers are often drawn to the city and town centres by the large retailer and the smaller ones feed off the opportunity buys. 

“Also, the old rates system still needs to be reviewed for this rapidly changing retail environment. If this does not happen when the stimulus runs out, we will almost certainly return to the current issues.

“The current number of retailers in financial difficulty has increased since 2017, in real terms there are around 30,000 businesses which are in serious financial distress. The chancellor recognised that reversing the high street problem is a long term problem but Mr Hammond doesn’t have any suggestions as yet on how to address shop leases. This is a big issue for the recent House Fraser and Debenhams announcements. In general, a bit of ‘sticking plaster’ that will soon be used and there appears no plans for long term growth.”

Gary Rohloff, founder and MD, Laybuy

“The chancellor’s financial pledges today helping local councils revitalise the high street and cutting business rates for smaller English retailers hopefully represent the beginning and not the end of a last desperate attempt at a revival of bricks and mortar retail in the UK.

“In recent decades we’ve increasingly seen the high street demonstrate its appetite for ‘short-term-ism’ time and again. Though the longstanding big beasts of retail have either paid the price or significantly struggled in this new digital age, we can only hope that these business rate cuts for smaller independents helps to cultivate a new, fresh and innovative set of retailers capable of quickly adapting to new technological realities.

“Though these pledges should provide much needed short-term relief however, the high street still needs to face the fact that they are only patching over far more deeply rooted issues in UK retail. Retailers – both large and small – should be wary of falling into the trap of thinking that this quick-fix is enough to deliver long-term, consistent financial success.”

Susan Davies, director, Santander Business

“SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy, making up the overwhelming majority of private sector businesses. They offer huge opportunities for growth and many are at the forefront of British innovation and exports. As a bank that has long championed the role of small businesses, today’s announcement is welcome relief to the industry and to those who work within it. The UK’s high street is undergoing transformation, and for new, smaller and independent businesses to be attracted to new ventures as they re-invent the high street, the business rates system required urgent intervention to positively support this transformation.”

On increased funding for management training

Sam Dumitriu, research director of The Entrepreneurs Network

“There’s clear evidence from The Entrepreneurs Network’s Business Stay-Up campaign that improving the quality of management skills in the UK is key to raising productivity. Creating stronger peer-to-peer networks and boosting the Knowledge Transfer Partnership to allow best practices to diffuse is rightly a priority. But the Chancellor should go further and create additional tax reliefs for employee-funded training.”