The Autumn Statement delivered mostly positive news for the Wiltshire business community.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne reported that the UK has the fastest growing economy in the G7, with an economic growth forecast at three percent. Half a million new jobs have been created in 2014, with 85 percent of them being full time positions. He also reported unemployment is set to fall to 5.4 percent in 2015 and inflation is predicted to be 1.5% in 2014, falling to 1.2% in 2015.
Ian Larrard Director of the Initiative in Swindon and Wiltshire, part of Business West shared his reaction with The Business Exchange, he commented:
“The Chancellor has delivered a crowd pleasing Autumn Statement for business. By focusing on key barriers to growth, such as Britain’s broken business rates system and the difficulty of accessing finance for growth, he has shown a commitment to solving problems that hinder the growth aspirations of many firms. Prior to today, businesses asked for help to deal with business rates, infrastructure and apprentices, all of which were addressed in a positive Autumn Statement to close out a year which saw the country finally emerge from a damaging recession.
“This Autumn Statement included many actions to boost small businesses. Over 99% of the 25,000 plus registered businesses in Swindon & Wiltshire are SMEs and further packages of support, such as the expansion of financial support for first-time exporters, increased rate relief and access to finance under the British Business Bank give these firms cause for celebration. Access to credit still remains stubbornly difficult for many small firms, despite several interventions announced since the credit crunch, so it is too early to say whether the latest steps to encourage further bank lending will succeed.
“A major coup for business is that the Chancellor has committed the government to a fundamental review of business rates and doubled small business rates relief for a further year. This iniquitous tax is sapping good companies’ strength year after year, long before they make a single penny in profits. In the last week we have seen this evident in the extremes of black Friday and cyber Monday, illustrating the competition we see between the high street and online retailers. The business rates system has meant that this hasn’t been a fair fight, with one arm of high street retailers held back by this vindictive tax. Today is a step in the right direction and this review must deliver fundamental change and not get bogged down by short term political thinking.
“Although the business community is applauding measures announced today, as we head towards the general election there are still fundamental barriers to growth that need to be addressed. With a very difficult fiscal position for UK plc over the next five years, all parties will need to remain focused on making sure economic growth is central to their new year manifestos.”
Pictured above: Ian Larrard, Director of the Initiative in Swindon and Wiltshire