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Chancellor’s Autumn Budget goes some of the way but not the full mile to help small businesses

Chancellor’s Autumn Budget goes some of the way but not the full mile to help small businesses

Here, Ian Baxter, Baxter Freight founder (pictured), offers his views on the outcomes of today’s Autumn Budget delivered by the Chancellor Philip Hammond:

Deficit reduction/growth

It’s disappointing, if not surprising, that the Chancellor has had to downgrade growth forecasts as we grapple with Brexit but, at the same, he deserves huge praise for sticking in broad terms to his deficit reduction plan which will see debt as a percentage of GDP falling from next year. It is vital for British businesses that we maintain a stable economic backdrop. Any rowing back on deficit reduction would put at risk all that has been achieved so far.

Business rates

The Chancellor has partially answered the concerns of SMEs around businesses rates and essentially softened the blow with rises to be pegged to normally lower Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation, rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI). However, I would still like more thought to be given to the effect of rates on start-up companies (Baxter Freight itself received a £40,000 rates bill before it had even sent out its first invoice), the impact of the tax take on the smallest of companies and the threat to town centres caused by the cost of simply opening up shop.

More frequent triennial rateable value reviews are welcome as they should soften the blow of the larger reviews we have had in the past.

Investment in infrastructure – new £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund

As a transport business, further investment in Britain’s infrastructure to improve our transport networks is warmly welcome. This is vital if Britain wants compete internationally especially after leaving the European Union. With a growing population and economy, we need to make decisions now to invest in infrastructure in order to benefit the country in the long-term.

Fuel duty frozen

We warmly welcome the Chancellor’s decision to continue to freeze fuel duty protecting hard working families and vital British businesses from further unwelcome cost increases.

National Living Wage

We warmly welcome the increase in the National Living Wage, which stops companies choosing to pay fair wages to their staff, as Baxter Freight does, from being undercut by competitors that don’t. It is vital that as we grow our economy we do so fairly.

Stamp duty removed for first-time buyers/new non means-tested travel cards/overcomplicating the tax system

The current tax system in the UK is already far too complex – our tax code is one of the longest in the world.

By removing stamp duty for 80% of first-time buyers I’m not sure the Chancellor has succeeded in simplifying our system but only further complicated it. The definition of a ‘first-time’ buyer is in itself debatable and could lead to only further complications for those looking to pick holes in the system.

I’m also against the extension of rail discounts for the under 30s. The government’s priority should be to continue to focus on providing a low tax environment with simple rules everyone can follow where people on low incomes are supported and the highest earners contribute the most.

Brexit

By setting £3bn aside over next two years to prepare the UK for every possible outcome as it leaves the EU, the Chancellor has eased concerns to a degree although unfortunately many of the issues surrounding Brexit will need time as well as money. Businesses and the general public are still desperately seeking more clarity on Brexit as soon as possible.

Concluding remarks

The best thing about this budget was that it did not do a lot and I warmly praise the Chancellor for resisting the temptation to meddle with things he doesn’t need to as many of his predecessors have chosen to do. In broad terms, he has continued his deficit reduction plan, invested a bit more in infrastructure, provided a little extra help for our NHS, supported the lowest paid and helped businesses with their rates bills. For all of this he gets two and a half cheers from me.

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