The Chancellor has gone some way to appeasing businesses in a Budget that surprised many people with a year still to go before the General Election.
It was widely anticipated that the next two big government set-pieces – the Autumn Statement and the 2015 Budget – rather than this one would be the ones to win over the doubters with big ‘giveaways’; but, as it turned out, George Osborne got a reasonable ‘thumbs-up’ from the business community.
The Chancellor delivered on a number of areas that the Chamber movement had been lobbying on for some time (even though our focus this year had been confined to youth employment, training and enterprise. Energy costs, infrastructure and house-building and export support are all areas addressed yesterday, as well the headline-grabbing announcements on pensions and savings.
Bradford Chamber President, Paul Mackie, said of the 2014 Budget: “Measures to help exports, measures to support investment, spending on infrastructure – all these are welcomed and will help to support more economic growth, which is what we want to see in the short and long-term. Extending the Apprenticeships Grant for Employers (AGE) was one of the key requests of the Chamber movement and so we’re obviously pleased with that one. Incentives for house-building will help Bradford’s growing population and the property sector too. It seems that the Chancellor has listened to businesses this time: concerns previously raised on energy costs, export finance, transport resilience have all seen some form of action today. “
Mike Cartwright, Bradford Chamber’s Policy & Representation Executive, added: “We’re now moving from a period of caution to one of more optimism and confidence. It’s still small steps, of course, but measures that give business more room to manoeuvre and to consider their options for growth are welcomed. So, for example, it’s crucial that energy, say, does not contribute further to the rising cost of doing business and we’ve seen measures to help address that; and doubling the Annual Investment Allowance will give companies more confidence too.”
Key business measures include:
* £7bn package to cut energy bills for manufacturers and other businesses.
* Extension to enterprise zone benefits for a further 3 years.
* Double annual investment allowance to £500,000 and extend to end 2015.
* Corporation tax down from 23% to 21%, then 20% next year.
* Extended grants for small firms to recruit 100,000 more apprentices; new degree level apprenticeships.
* Incentives for house-building with £500m for small house-builders
* Extend Help to Buy for rest of decade.
* Changes to export finance system – double amount available to £3m and lower interest rates.
* Reform to Air Passenger Duty: all long-haul flights carry same lower band as US flights
* Action on tax evasion: more cash for HMRC and new powers to collect from bank accounts