Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement as Chancellor has divided opinion, with many positive about wage rises and measures to reduce landlord fees while businesses were less impressed.
Small businesses — including many retailers — have expressed disappointment at Hammond’s lack of initiative and criticised his cautious approach, arguing action and investment is key to thriving in post-Brexit UK.
The Forum of Private Business rated their satisfaction with the statement at a tepid six out of 10, hoping for bolder initiatives.
Director general of the British Chamber of Commerce said: “We would have liked to see more action on the high up-front taxes and costs of doing business in the UK, particularly business rates.”
Despite this Hammond did lay out his plan for increased rural relief, giving businesses in less populated areas discounts on business rates. The Federation of Small Businesses applauded this move.
Digital entrepreneur Martin Leuw added that the lack of action on the business rates was worrying as it was “an issue that’s a constant problem for SMEs”.
“Great tech startups can attract capital anyway, so I struggle to see how government funding will stop early exits by our best businesses. What we really need is more talent not finance,” he said.
Another cornerstone of Hammond’s plan was to increase the amount of tax the self-employed pay, and laid out plans for a conference to tackle the issue of tax avoidance in this sector.
Founder of Enterprise Nation agreed a small business support group, Emma Jones stated: “It’s absolutely the government’s responsibility to invest in the infrastructure and technology we need to boost our economy, we all benefit from that.
“But for the only reference to hard-working small businesses and the self-employed to be in connection with tax avoidance is worrying. Is this a dawning of a dangerous new era for entrepreneurs in post-Brexit Britain?”