Autumn Statement 2013: Entrepreneurs’ react

UK entrepreneurs share their verdict on the government’s latest policies

In a somewhat optimistic speech, last week George Osborne announced the Autumn Statement and unveiled many key measures which will have a direct impact upon small business.

Here, entrepreneurs and leading business experts give their views on the government’s statement and whether they chime with Osborne’s opinion that “Britain’s economic plan is working”…

On business rates relief

Shalini Khemka, founder and CEO of entrepreneur network E2Exchange(E2E):

“It is excellent that the chancellor has used this statement to give a much needed boost to start-up businesses, particularly with regards to business rates, however we would like to see further reform of this area. Business rates should reflect a company’s performance, rather than the rateable value of the property from which they are running their business, to ensure a completely fair system.”

Vince McLoughlin, partner at business & tax advisory firm, Russell New:

“Something had to be done with business rates and by extending the relief beyond April, this gives businesses of all shapes and sizes some breathing space in which to grow and boost local economies in 2014. The government now brings in £27bn from business rates; this is more than council tax and fuel duty.

“Freezing business rates has eased the burden on businesses and given time for the tax to be reformed over the next couple of years. With greater relief, small and medium businesses also now have an incentive to make crucial investment decisions, some of which may have been delayed waiting for this announcement. Although the signs of recovery are evident, it would be foolhardy to stifle that growth by hindering businesses with additional costs.”

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Adam Tyler, CEO of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB):

“Extending business rate relief and capping inflation on commercial premises will help hold back the rising tide of business costs. The antiquated system used to work out business rates based on the Retail Price Index desperately needs an overhaul, as the costs have spiralled high enough to threaten the survival of many fledgling businesses. Extending the relief will buy the time to do this.”

On support for high street businesses

Brendan Flattery, CEO of Sage UKI, said:

“The chancellor has offered some hope for the high street with the reoccupation relief and that is good news for entrepreneurs, but a reform of business rates is long overdue. The 2% cap on rate increases is a welcome first step but it does not go far enough – and any review should happen well before the 2017 date mentioned.

“Following prolonged turbulence in the Eurozone there is a need for small businesses to consider the opportunities further afield, and the £50bn being made available as part of the Export Finance Capacity will help expand those horizons for small business owners.”

On the expansion of the government’s Startup Loans scheme

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder of online freelancer marketplace PeoplePerHour:

“The chancellor […] announced another 50,000 new Startup Loans. However he skimmed over how firms will be able to access these funds, how long the application process will take and, crucially, who will be eligible. The problem for small businesses has not been that lenders don’t have cash to lend, it’s that there are far too many hoops to jump through and red tape to cut to even get to the front of the line. Unless these funds are really open for businesses, this is just another hollow promise, a headline initiative with very little hope of doing what the government has earmarked it to do.”

On employment allowance and reduced NICs

Nigel Heap, MD for Hays UK and Ireland:

The removal of employer National Insurance contributions for under 21s will allow businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, to invest in growing their workforces. Small and medium enterprises provide six in 10 private sector jobs and are essential to the health of the UK’s labour market. Reducing the financial risks they take when bringing in new staff will create new opportunities for thousands of people currently looking for employment.”

On plans to freeze Fuel Duty

Lucy Burnford, founder of car management platform

“Cancelling planned fuel duty rises looks like a sweetener in the face of persistently high prices at the pumps – but really it’s a red herring. A decrease in fuel duty would be a real win for motorists. The freeze is merely a token gesture because the effect will be a drop in the ocean when it comes to the overall cost of keeping a car on the road. The average motorist must budget £2,746 per year, plus tax and insurance, which can be a massive strain on already cash-strapped households.

“The government needs to recognise that more cost-cutting measures are needed to alleviate financial pressure on businesses that rely on their vehicles. Plans such as the one to install petrol price comparison signs along major routes simply don’t go far enough.”

Alistair Bingle, managing director of family removals company Bishop’s Move:

“The past 12 months has brought good news to businesses that rely on the roads on which to operate. By announcing that there is a firm commitment to the fuel duty freeze up until the next election then this gives industries, such as haulage, the breathing space in which to plan and grow over the next 18 months and thus, create more job opportunities.”



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