Posted by

John Longworth, Director General

22 Mar 2013

 

 

 

This week George Osborne presented his vision of the UK government’s future finances in his fourth Budget to date.   The BCC kept a close eye on proceedings this year as we believe the country is at a crucial point to shape the future of the country.  Our message was clear and concise “We need urgency, scale and delivery today” – a last chance saloon for bold action to steer us from the brink back into sustainable growth.

The government has moved strongly in the right direction but to really make a difference in what the Chancellor has declared as a longer period of austerity than the Great Depression, the measures needed to have been at a much larger scale, and he should have avoided ‘jam tomorrow’, as many measures were delayed until after the election.

A real and tangible win for the BCC came in the form of the proposed voucher scheme to help businesses access growth advice.  We proposed this in September 2012 and the £30m committed to the scheme is a real boost, and one the Accredited Chamber Network is looking forward to seeing out into action.

We applaud the effort to shift spending towards growth but ring fencing some areas will always constrain the impact that can be made.  However more immediate investment in house building, business access to finance and support for those wanting to export would have offered better value for money and public good.  The lowering of corporation tax will introduce business confidence among global investors but the BCC is left wondering whether there will be consideration to cut tax further if there is no sign of resurgent growth?

The Chancellor’s move to help smaller companies take on more staff is important and will make a real difference within the business community.  Cutting employers national insurance bills by a significant £2,000 will help those in need when they need it.

Transport and energy infrastructure was mentioned in an effort to raise confidence and a pledge was made to readdress them in the future, but not enough has been done.  Green infrastructure has yet to be guaranteed and therefore is still a risky investment, while the benefit of immediate spending on transport, and road building has been ducked. 

We were very disappointed that there was no announcement on business rates.  Businesses have been crying out for relief from these burdensome taxes for years, but so far nothing has been done to address this issue.  Likewise measures to boost international trade and export support have been delayed meaning British companies in need of more practical help overseas are cast adrift by current policies.  Why are changes being held back until the Autumn Statement when business needs help now?

In summary, although there were a number of measures that will be welcomed by business they would have liked to see an even bigger shift in government spending towards priorities that unleash enterprise, which in turn deliver jobs, prosperity and the tax revenues needed to shrink the deficit.  Has George now missed his chance?