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2017 Spring Budget: the business reaction

Business groups have responded to the key announcements made in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Budget speech.

Commenting on the controversial issue of the upcoming changes to business rates, Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: ‘FSB welcomes the fact that the Chancellor has listened to the small business-led campaign on business rates. The £435 million of new money is a direct and much-needed response to those facing astronomical hikes in their business rates.

‘But this tax remains out-of-date, so . . . we call for a cross-party commission to create a simple, fair tax system for a modern economy.’

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) also reacted to the Chancellor’s business rates announcements: Adam Marshall, its Director General, said: ‘The business communities hardest-hit by this year’s business rates revaluation will breathe a little easier thanks to the Chancellor’s decision to offer a package of transitional reliefs.

‘We now challenge councils across England to use every penny of the new funding announced by the Chancellor to offer relief to the hardest-hit businesses in their areas, without excuses and without delay.’

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the government’s focus on skills and improving technical education for young people. Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI, stated: ‘This is a breakthrough Budget for skills. 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.’

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), however, expressed disappointment in the Chancellor’s lack of announcements in relation to the UK economy, Brexit and in-work support: ‘The Chancellor missed the opportunity to get Britain match-fit for Brexit by investing in jobs and infrastructure,’ commented Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC.

‘Workers will be no better off at the end of the Parliament than they were set to be at the time of the last Autumn Statement.’

The Chancellor’s announcements also dissatisfied the Institute of Directors (IoD): Stephen Martin, IoD Director General, commented: ‘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.’