Among Phillip Hammond’s announcements in his first (and apparently last) autumn statement, was investment in infrastructure, exporting, broadband and a £23bn national productivity investment fund.
Affirming that his priority as chancellor “is to ensure that Britain remains the number one destination for business – creating the investment, the jobs and the prosperity to protect long-term future.”
Hammond announced that the government will encourage exporters, doubling the financial capacity of the UK export market and that there will be £400m available for the British Business Bank to invest in fintech.
Lack of Post-Brexit support
However, some business groups have expressed disappointment at Hammond’s lack of initiative, failure to tackle business rates and the overall lack of post-Brexit support for SMEs.
Hoping for bolder initiatives, The Forum of Private Business, gave the autumn statement six out of a possible ten, stating that they were disappointed that the chancellor had not gone further to support small businesses in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Ian Cass, chief executive of the forum said: “It is really disappointing that he has opted for caution over stimulus.”
And Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “We would have liked to see more action on the high up-front taxes and costs of doing business in the UK, particularly business rates”.
Expressing the opinion of many UK enterprises, digital entrepreneur, Martin Leuw, stated that the lack of action regarding business rates was worrying, calling it a “constant problem for SMEs.”
“Great tech startups can attract capital anyway, so I struggle to see how government funding will stop early exits by our best businesses. What we really need is more talent not finance," he told Retail Gazette.
Rural rate relief
Changes such as rural rate relief being increased to 100% was welcomed by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) who tweeted ‘Great news for hundreds of #SMEs, as Govt announces rural rate relief, giving tax breaks worth up to £2900 a year #AutumnStatement’
However, Ross Murray, president of the CLA, an organisation for landowners, property owners and rural businesses across England and Wales found it difficult to see how rural businesses will fit into Hammond’s vision for the future:
“The investments announced today are overwhelmingly targeted at improving facilities within, and connections between, our cities. We understand why this is important but it must not be done at the expense of opportunities to support the rural economy and build the homes we need to sustain our rural communities.”
The association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), stated that they were seriously concerned by Hammond’s comments regarding a consultation on increasing the amount of tax that self-employed people pay.
Director of policy, Andy Chamberlain commented:
“We’re very disappointed that the chancellor mentioned the self-employed in the same breath as tax avoidance. He didn’t acknowledge that the rise in self-employment has led to a reduction in unemployment. He talked about the self-employed in the terms of tax yield and tax awareness – the self-employed are not self-employed in order to avoid tax. We are concerned by Mr Hammond’s rhetoric on the issue.”