Not easily satisfied, however, there are still a few more things that UK business would like to be included in George Osborne’s last Autumn Statement as chancellor of this coalition.
1. Assisting exports
Exports have long plagued the UK recovery as it has emerged from the economic crisis. SMEs are shunning overseas trade and figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have regularly shown a negative trade deficit.
Within the confines of EU competition law we ought to consider offering a form of R&D style credit for SMEs which export
To that end, CBI director-general John Cridland has recommended that the government should introduce a direct lending facility to buyers of UK exports, citing concern that UK exports were being left at a competitive disadvantage.
Cridland acknowledged the fact that “in the short term, direct lending will add to public sector net debt” but said experience suggested such a facility could “deliver a net positive return to the Treasury over time”.
Joining Cridland in calls for export support is KPMG’s UK chairman, Simon Collins. Describing exports as “vital” to long-term UK growth, Collins has called for improved visa rules, continued focus on international trade – with the help of ministerial trade missions – and “further extending help to medium-sized businesses”.
However, ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza warned the chancellor that the current state of public finances would not support radical measures, saying that Osborne “must avoid any short-term political land grabs” in favour of focusing on “practical measures that will help secure our economic recovery”.
2. Help out the struggling mid-sized businesses
Mid-sized businesses are an area of concern for many in the industry, and Collins is not the only person calling for a helping hand to be extended to this sector.
A survey by mid-tier firm Grant Thornton revealed that significant percentages of medium sized businesses want the Autumn Statement to devolve budgets for local transport (59%), training (52%), and business rates (44%) to cities.
Robert Hannah, Grant Thornton’s UK board member for regions, stressed that Osborne et al needed to listen to the needs of “dynamic medium-sized businesses” saying they had “continually contributed a disproportionately large amount to the UK economy and job market, and policy makers need to do more to unlock their further potential”.
Additionally, Cridland recommended the government should create an aggregation platform to help medium-sized businesses access debt through corporate bond markets.
BDO has called for business rates reliefs for smaller businesses. The firm said the rates are a “significant and unfair cost to UK businesses as they are not based on business performance.”
“This is widely accepted and lobbying pressure to reform the way in which business rates are calculated continues to build. It is likely that some further token reliefs or exemptions for smaller businesses will be announced, however, these will once again fall short of the wholesale reform that is desperately required,” it added.
3. The home straight
Housing will be a key issue leading into the general election, meaning that the Autumn Statement will give the coalition a chance to show the public they are committed to providing a solution to the problem.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants chief, Chas Roy-Chowdhury recommends that stamp duty gets a serious overhaul, citing the Scottish end to the “slab nature” of stamp duty, adding that it provided “the perfect opportunity for the chancellor to consider reform but in a way which recognises property inflation and the different property price profiles in the rest of the UK”.
The CBI and Cridland added that efforts to reform housing should begin, chiefly, with an increased supply of new homes. Cridland said the government must use the Autumn Statement “to boost activity on the supply side, in particular by quickening the release of public sector land and throwing efforts behind kick starting large, stalled sites”.
Cridland calls on the chancellor to help the successful First Buy scheme to bed in, and explains that “the government’s efforts should be focused on ensuring [the scheme] reaches its potential rather than on developing new schemes”.