Budget 2015: Entrepreneurs and business commentators react

The chancellor has said the Budget report is an “economic plan working for you”, but is it? Business owners and industry leaders share their views on the key policies announced…

According to chancellor George Osborne, Britain is “coming out of the depths” and his Budget 2015 report focused heavily on plans to maintain growth with an emphasis on supporting the “Northern powerhouse”, the creative sector and the self-employed.

Arguably one of the biggest announcements was the confirmation that annual tax returns would be abolished by 2020 under the next government which has largely been met with approval by small and medium businesses.

Here, entrepreneurs and business commentators deliver their verdict on Osborne’s “long term economic plan” and whether it goes far enough to support the small business landscape….

Nick Halstead, CEO, DataSift

“It’s great to see that the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and Enterprise Investment Scheme being updated so that businesses no longer have to spend 70% of the funds raised under SEIS before EIS and Venture Capital Trust funding can be raised. It takes a lot of time and effort to raise funding and being able to secure investment concurrently means management teams can spend more time doing what they should be doing – running and building a successful business.

“It’s also encouraging to see the government looking beyond just ‘Silicon Roundabout’ as a hub for tech innovation and investing £11m in tech incubators in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. Innovation and entrepreneurship isn’t limited to London, it takes place nationwide and this funding should help build a successful business ecosystem, nurturing and mentoring the next wave of tech stars that will drive a successful economy.”

Julian David, CEO, techUK

“Today’s Budget announcement demonstrates that tech is essential for ensuring the UK’s long-term economic success.

“The smart use of tech is fundamental for balancing the books, increasing productivity, creating new jobs and including and empowering people across the UK. By investing in infrastructure, innovation and entrepreneurship the government is driving growth, not just in tech, but across the whole UK economy.

“Combined with continued ambition for digital government, today’s package strengthens the UK’s position as a leading global digital economy.”

Debbie Wosskow, founder and CEO, LoveHomeSwap

“I’m delighted that the government has taken the Sharing Economy report I issued last November so seriously – and that they have really listened, and taken real action on the back of the recommendations I made, particularly around changes to make it easier to share rooms and parking spaces. I am also impressed by the way in which government has embraced the Sharing Economy internally as well, updating the government procurement frameworks to include sharing economy platforms and also allowing government employees to use sharing economy solutions for accommodation and traveling. I also welcome today’s announcement that  in 2015-2016 Leeds and Greater Manchester will be undertaking a ‘Sharing City’ pilot scheme, in which transport, shared office space, accommodation and skills are joined together and residents are encouraged to share.”

Phil Orford MBE, chief executive, Forum of Private Business (FPB)

“Our members were looking for fairness and stability in the Budget. Fairness when it comes to the business tax burden and stability in a year of political uncertainty to allow small employers to invest and employ with relative certainty. As we look now beyond the Budget, we call on the next government to put in place measures to put small business interests at the heart of party manifestos. The UK’s political parties should now be judged at the general election on their commitment to put small and medium at the top of the political agenda, protecting the backbone of the British economy.

“In short this was a holding Budget with announcements of key consultations that could lead to significant small business changes post-election.”

Shalini Khemka, founder and CEO, E2Exchange

“A significant amount has already been achieved by the chancellor and the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS), and I’m pleased that the chancellor will be introducing the digital tax system which will give the self-employed far better control over their tax payments and cashflow. However, we would have liked to have seen this extended to small business with more initiatives to further simplify the tax system for companies as it makes it increasingly hard for businesses of all sizes to understand and forecast their tax liability to enable them to remain competitive, expand and more importantly create wealth and jobs.

“I would also like to have seen the issue of funding better addressed, particularly around access to information to help small and medium enterprises gain a better understanding of what financing is most suitable for their business. The extension to the Enterprise Zones is also welcome, but we would like to see London start-ups better supported given the number that are trying to become established in and around the capital.

“Overall, I view the Budget as being a good step in the right direction towards addressing some of the general business issues facing the UK but we will hope for more measures that will directly benefit start-ups and growing businesses in the next budget.”

Jason Stockwood, CEO, Simply Business

“First, the good. News that the self-assessment system will be simplified is to be cautiously welcomed, but it is vital that the full impact of this simplification is felt by every self-employed person in the UK. It is also important that the government remembers those who are not comfortable filing online. News that the artificial offshoring of profits is to be targeted is also good news. Small businesses pay their way – so too must multinationals.

“But today’s announcement lacked many of the concrete steps for which sole traders and microbusinesses, the small firms that can drive a truly sustainable recovery, have long been crying out. The business rates announcement doesn’t go far enough. Small firms need immediate rate cuts and simplification to ensure that they are no longer discriminated against by this regressive tax – now, not with the vague promise of potential action in 2016. Just as importantly, fuel duty must be cut to ensure that the thousands of small businesses that rely on their vehicles can reach their potential.

“The chancellor could have taken concrete steps today to support the small firms that the government has said it is behind. Instead, this Budget was another missed opportunity.”

Keith Morgan, CEO, British Business Bank:

“Today’s announcements highlight the continued progress we are making to improve the smaller business finance markets in the UK. Smaller businesses of all sizes and stages are critical to the wider economic landscape, driving employment and innovation forward, and these two programmes will significantly enhance their chances of surviving and succeeding.”

Bruce Macfarlane, managing partner, MMC Ventures

“I welcome the government’s continued backing for UK enterprise and investment, and especially the ongoing support for the enterprise investment scheme. The Government clearly believes that EIS and VCTs are working as they are also applying that model in the social investing space. With an election coming up fast, this Budget seems to me to have been a sensible one.”

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