Business applauds skills drive in Budget

Business reaction in Britain to Chancellor Philip Hammond's Budget proposals has generally been favourable, particularly to the latest emphasis on increasing training in STEM subjects.

Business applauds skills drive in Budget
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, described it as “a breakthrough Budget for skills”. She added, “There has never been a more important time for the UK to sit at the global top table of technical education for young people.“Firms will be looking for ongoing partnership with the government as they try to make the Apprenticeship Levy work.“However, with inflation rising and the cumulative burden weighing on businesses’ shoulders, limited relief for firms hit hard by business rates falls short.“Firms are wholly committed to the health and wellbeing of their people, and are pleased to see an increase in spending on social care.”

Minimal change

Dr Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said, “Businesses had been advised to expect minimal change, rather than a blockbuster Budget, and Philip Hammond did not disappoint.“Short-term support for firms hardest-hit by business rates rises will be welcomed, along with commitments to technical education, digital connectivity, easier R&D tax credits, and a one-year delay to digital tax reporting for the very smallest firms. Conversely, hikes to dividend taxes and national insurance for the self-employed will be viewed far less positively by entrepreneurs.“While businesspeople appreciate a steady hand on the tiller, the government is sending mixed signals by holding investment largely steady at precisely the time that it is exhorting British businesses to double down. More needs to be done in the coming months to improve infrastructure, promote international trade, and encourage lagging business investment to ensure the UK is Brexit-ready.”

'Nothing to see here'

Stephen Martin, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said, “The ‘nothing to see here’ approach adopted by the Chancellor will only fly for so long. Business leaders will applaud the long-term focus on improving technical skills and investment in research and development, but the business community will have hoped for much more support in the immediate term, especially amid such economic and political uncertainty."The business rates reliefs, while welcome, look distinctly modest at first glance, and there was very little in the Budget to provide incentives for business to invest today when they are already putting projects on hold.“In the context of a cumulative storm of higher inflation, the coming Apprenticeship Levy and increases in the minimum wage, it is clear that the coming year will be one in which business is expected to grit its teeth and tough it out. The Chancellor’s jokes may have been funnier than anybody expected, but it’ll be business leaders’ resilience that’ll be needed to ensure we’re still smiling in November.”

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Tim Walford-Fitzgerald, private client principal at accountants HW Fisher & Company, commented, "By announcing increases to Class 4 national insurance for the self-employed from 2018, the Chancellor has reduced the tax differential between the employed and self-employed."But narrowing the tax difference does nothing to reduce the inequality of rights enjoyed by those working for themselves compared to people in stable employment. The regular wage slip is a world apart from the increased risks and uncertainty involved in running your own business."These tax changes do not reflect the practical distinctions between employment and self-employment."On the Budget generally, he added, "This was a Budget looking very much to the future. The emphasis on education, R&D, training and infrastructure is focused on tomorrow, not just today. With T-Levels, the emphasis is increasingly on skills in practice rather than scores on paper."Overall, this is a very welcome development that points to a long-overdue recognition of the value of technical skills." For related news and features, visit our Enterprise section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre

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