Dear Osborne, here are 9 things businesses urgently want from the government

Are you listening George?

It’s almost Autumn Statement time. We know, Autumn is almost over, and winter is upon us – someone should tell George Osborne that.

But the Chancellor has hopefully been busy putting together his interim budget. It’s a chance for him to crack out few new fiscal surprises from his Pandora’s Box just in time for Christmas.

We don’t know what Gorgeous George has got in store for us yet, but here are a few things that businesses want to see:

1. Make apprenticeships more attractive

Dr Adam Marshall, Executive Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce:

“Businesses want to tackle skills shortages and drive up productivity, but the apprenticeship levy risks having the reverse effect.

“A lack of clarity around the scope, rate and scale is having a huge impact on business confidence. Many firms have decided to put training and investment on hold, and are concerned about the knock on effects of the levy on their cash flow, existing training schemes, and the bottom line. It’s important that this levy doesn’t undermine other types of vocational training, which could be better suited to some businesses.

“While businesses back the government’s drive to boost apprenticeships, they have real concerns about the current approach. The government must focus on improving the quality of apprenticeships to make them more attractive to employers, and provide clarity on how they will be paid for as soon as possible.”  

 

2. Take action on the dividend tax

Vince McLoughlin, partner at Russell New – a firm of business, tax, and charity advisers:

“The Chancellor should use this opportunity to have a change of heart on the new dividend tax, which is going to hurt thousands of small and micro businesses across the UK. The costs for small businesses, which include pension auto-enrolment and the new Living Wage for the over-25s, already provide various financial hurdles for them to overcome. There is so much potential for our small businesses to grow and lead us to a greater and healthier economic position yet the Government is doing all it can to hinder this potential.

The key desired outcome from the Autumn Statement is that the current economic confidence continues to be built upon so businesses can carry on building their workforce and investing in growth.”

 

3. Raise National Insurance payment threshold

Peter Burgess, director at Retail Human Resources: “What the Chancellor must do, above anything else, is immediately raise the rate at which both employee and employer National Insurance payments are made, for this would encourage workers and employers to work more hours. Many zero hours contracts are kept to a level that avoids the payment of Employer’s NI. More also needs to be done about housing in London. This is a crisis of epic proportions and needs intervention now; the average cost of property in the capital is now approaching £500,000. The compulsory purchase of land next to trunk roads for the development of flats would seem to be the only answer to solve this ticking time-bomb.”

Autumn leaves - short

4. Cut fuel duty

Alistair Bingle, managing director at Bishop’s Move: “UK diesel prices are now the highest of the 56 countries in Continental Europe and we currently have the highest Fuel Duty levels in the Western World. More than two-thirds of the pump price in the UK is down to tax, making it the highest in the EU for diesel and the second highest for petrol. Therefore, a 3pc cut in fuel duty would be a welcome relief for our industry, businesses that rely on the roads, and of course families across the country.”

 

5. Support SME financing strategies

Sharon Argov, CEO and co-Founder of Fundbird

“With the Funding for Lending Scheme set to be phased out in January 2016, and the government referral scheme pushed back until “late 2016”, we hope that this statement will bring about a serious conversation about SME financing in the UK. Although SMEs continue to bolster the growth of the UK economy, we are now starting to see worrying reports of a gap between their ambition and current productivity.

“Despite a raft of negative headlines highlighting the impact of late payments, our data shows that the majority of SMEs seeking alternative finance are doing so to fuel expansion and growth. It would be a terrible shame to stifle this potential through a lack of available finance.”

 

6. Pursue big firms for tax

Jason Kitcat, micro-business ambassador, Crunch Accounting

“We know the Chancellor is keen to promote economic growth and productivity, so we hope his Autumn Statement will proactively support the 8.5 million people working in British micro-businesses.

Micro-business owners will be looking to see that government pursues corporations to pay their fair share of tax. We’d like to see dividend tax changes amended to give the smallest firms a 3 year transition period to prepare for the loss of take-home income they will experience.”

 

7. Deal with the growing skills crisis

Mark Furness, CEO and founder at essensys:

“If the government wants to support growing businesses in the UK there are two areas it has to get right – the growing chasm in skilled technology workers, and getting better at delivery and access for its support initiatives for growing businesses.

“The UK is likely to face a barren few years on the technical skills front. Whilst we’ll still need to ride out a difficult time, there needs to be immediate action to develop the UKs technology skills for the future. When I look at the kind of talent coming out of other countries, like Vietnam for example, we’re falling behind with each passing day. A nod to coding on the curriculum just isn’t sufficient, there needs to be wholesale change to ensure technical skills are baked in to every aspect and every layer of the UK education system.”

 

8. Ensure new business models play by the rules

Geoffrey Reisel, chariman and CEO of One-Transport:

“I’d like to see the government protect London businesses and consumers by holding sharing economy providers like Uber and Airbnb to account. Extending the consumer rights legislation would be a good start to help ensure these companies are subject to the same rules and responsibilities to provide quality goods and services as other businesses serving the capital.”

 

9. Greater investment in renewable energy

Silvio Spiess, founder & CEO of Innasol:

“From the Autumn Statement, we want to see further investment from the government in renewable energy, specifically renewable heating technologies like biomass. We are calling on the government to recognise the demand amongst home and business owners for renewable heating, and to commit to investing in renewable heating past Q1 2016.

“By reallocating budget to further invest in subsidies (like the Renewable Heat Incentive) to promote renewable heating, the government will propel the UK towards carbon emissions reductions and closer to the EU 2020 targets. Now is the time to act, and we must do so together.”

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