Reaction to Autumn Statement

Matthew Lee (far left)

Matthew Lee (far left)

Business Leaders across the region have been busy digesting the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

Here are some selected comments.

Matthew Lee, Managing Partner at Bishop Fleming comments: “All the leaks and pre-briefings meant that there were few surprises, but there was both good and bad news from the Chancellor.

“As a firm, we have recognised the need for a total reform of Business Rates, which are constraining and crippling many SMEs by being set at outdated property values and uniquely rising with inflation.

“The Chancellor has today applied a sticking plaster by capping that inflationary increase to 2%, extending small businesses relief, introducing a 50% discount for new occupiers of empty shops, and offering a £1,000 discount to small retailers.

“The introduction of monthly payments will help Treasury cash-flow and may also help some small businesses.

“These are all welcome gestures, but Mr Osborne has failed to tackle the fundamental iniquities of this tax.

“We shall, therefore, continue to campaign for a ‘root & branch’ reform of Business Rates.

“Meanwhile, his freezing of the fuel escalator and above inflation rail fares will be good news for business, as will his plan to scrap the ‘Job Tax’ (ie, employers’ NI contributions) for employees aged up to 21.

“It’s a pity, though, that this NI measure cannot take effect before 2015.”

Commenting on the Chancellor’s announcement to cap any increase in business rates by two per cent, Paul Matthews, Partner at Bruton Knowles in Bristol, said:

“The whole rating system is in need of a shake up and proposals have been discussed to reform the whole system.

“Ratepayers are currently paying rates based upon peak rental levels set in 2008, yet we are still in a recession.

“It doesn’t solve the inequality of the Ratable Values set historically at a time of very different property values, particularly in the retail streets of our towns and cities.

“Void rates are still contributing to the risks of commercial development,  holding back building programmes and the associated job creation and investment

“The best way is for the Government to cease using the rates system as a cash cow and adopt real time flexibility in setting and amending business rates.

“The delay of the next revaluation from 2015 to 2017 simply doesn’t help business and there is talk that the revaluation may be deferred further to 2020.

“If the Rateable Values are to remain at the peak levels then the Government should reduce the UBR to an acceptable level.”

Commenting on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement today, Phil Smith, Managing Director of Business West said:

“The Chancellor has in large part heeded business’s call for a ‘steady as she goes’ Autumn Statement, rather than a grab bag of electoral giveaways.

“While Britain’s economy is improving, and our businesses report strong confidence, the UK is still some way from achieving the truly great economy we need.

“Upgraded growth forecasts, lower borrowing forecasts, and increased business confidence are all indications that the UK economy is moving in the right direction.

“However, restoring stability to the public finances remains crucial to businesses.

“The Chancellor must continue to restrain current spending and prioritise resources on investment in infrastructure and on creating the most competitive environment for wealth creation and enterprise.

“We welcome the measures to address the skills gap and youth unemployment.”

Phil comments further: “Businesses and young people in the South West will benefit from Government action to cut employer National Insurance Contributions for all under 21s on earnings up to £42,000.

“However, we are concerned that some companies might find it difficult to keep these young people on after their 21st birthdays, when employer National Insurance contributions would kick in.

“We would urge the government to consider some sort of taper, so that we avoid seeing people who are hired at 18 or 19 let go when they reach 21. A taper would also mean that over-21s are not disadvantaged in the job market.”

Reacting to announcements made in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement earlier today, Jeremy Richards, head of the Bristol office at Jones Lang LaSalle said:

“Whilst it’s a great relief to see the much predicted improvements to our economic prospects, businesses need to ready themselves for better times so greater support for development would have been useful, ensuring property supply moves in line with increased demand.

“However, there were encouraging moves in terms of housing, with the £1 billion investment in home building and increasing the Help to Buy scheme.

“Our precious High Streets should also benefit from rates cuts and relief for businesses taking on empty premises.”