However, John Allen, national chairman of the Federation of Small Business, said some businesses may find it difficult, saying “even though offset by a welcome increase in the employment allowance, some will find the new national living wage challenging”.
Announcing plans to relax Sunday trading laws, Osborne said elected mayors and councils will be given powers to decide if it will boost economic activity locally.
Osborne also announced he will on Friday unveil a plan to improve UK productivity, saying “our weak productivity shows we don’t train, build or invest enough”. He said transport will be a focus. “Four fifths of all journeys in this country are made by road, yet we rank behind Puerto Rico and Namibia in the quality of our network,” he said.
The annual investment allowance will go up to £200,000 this year. Osborne said this will helps SMEs, encouraging them to invest in equipment. It was due to fall to £25,000 at the end of the year.
Apprenticeships were another key theme, and Osborne said he will impose an apprenticeships levy on large firms. He also announced that corporation tax would be cut to 18% by 2020.
Here’s a roundup of reaction from Small business leaders:
Peter O’Toole, CEO of Retail Merchandising Services (RMS)
“I think [Osborne] is easing his way into [changing the trading laws] and eventually Sunday will become a normal day.
If trading laws change, I think there are positives for independents; it doesn’t necessarily mean that on Sundays they will lose their trade. It gives them the opportunity to enhance their stores. They will have to roll up their sleeves a little bit and get stuck in. I think competition is healthy and I think it can only do good.”
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS)
“Giving local authorities the responsibility for setting Sunday trading hours will lead to inconsistency and confusion for businesses and shoppers. In areas where large stores’ trading hours are extended, we will simply see the same amount of trade spread over more hours and shifting from small stores to large stores, as was the case when the laws were suspended for the 2012 London Olympics, when overall retail sales actually fell.”
Mike Cherry, policy director of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
“It was a mixed bag. There are a lot of new issues around the raising of the national living wage for over-25s that will particularly affect our members in the hospitality, retail and care home sectors. But I understand why the government has done it and they have allowed business time to plan for the new costs. Taking £3,000 off national insurance contributions is balanced out for smaller firms, with those employing four staff at the national living wage being exempt from national insurance.
The annual investment allowance has been announced at a much higher level than the government had first intended, while the cutting of corporation tax will benefit our members with incorporated small businesses. An idea that was quite revolutionary is taking Vehicle Excise Duty to spend on developing road infrastructure. Road investment was one of the big asks we put forward to the chancellor for delivering on infrastructure. “
Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates
“Wearing my digital hat, there wasn’t a huge amount in the budget for the digital and tech sector, the fastest growing part of the economy.
There’s a huge number of jobs being created now and in the future that require digital skills. We have to re-tool and re-train people in terms of how to feel comfortable in getting into coding, software development and programming.
There was a window to address that in the budget, or at least to make a statement about it.”
Dr Adam Marshall, executive director for policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce
“A lot was positive, including the corporation tax reductions, the cuts to employers’ national insurance contributions and the annual investment allowance [set at £200,000 rather than falling to £25,000 at the end of the year].
[Regarding mayors deciding Sunday trading hours in their area], our chamber members have long worked towards having these types of decision made locally.
I was surprised an announcement to increase airport capacity wasn’t included. For businesses this is still an important issue, although I understand it’s one the airports commission is addressing. Investment in roads is absolutely essential, small and big businesses are dependent on the road network. “
Paul Shepherd, marketing director at Hello Soda
“As a tech company based in Manchester, we’re excited the councils will have more powers. Electing a mayor will help ensure these promises are kept and fuel up the Northern Powerhouse.
Better transport links, oyster-style ticketing and devolution of powers throughout the North will improve nationwide tech and enterprise hubs, employment and our economy.”
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