Yesterday’s Autumn Statement has not had the best of press. But we feel it wasn’t actually a bad one for business.
We had the fuel duty increase binned, business rate relief extended, road building schemes announced to the tune of billions, and then there’s the 10 fold Annual Investment Allowance increase. And let’s not forget the news that there’ll be 2,500 more tax inspectors checking the accounts of big business.
But let’s take a look at some of the less headline grabbing content from yesterday’s statement. There was more on infrastructure, notably road building and improvement schemes, and also superfast broadband. Another 10 cities to get special attention on this score.
In order to compete in the modern world Britain must have a fully functioning, fit for purpose infrastructure system, so these make sense. That said, we heard much on this last November when the Chancellor unveiled billions and billions in road building schemes, and how much did it help bolster the UK economy in 2012?
These things naturally take time to feed through, and time is not something, however, we are blessed with.
There’s no doubt though that major road building schemes are good for businesses, particularly at a time when the construction sector is in the doldrums.
The Chancellor also committed to build new power stations and announced tax breaks for shale gas extraction. Shale gas would likely mean cheaper energy bills for hard pressed businesses who over the past number of years had struggled against rocketing prices.
Our latest research among members showed energy as one of the biggest barriers to growth, and a pressing concern for almost 90% of business owners. The Chancellor’s commitment to shale gas should mean energy bills come down over time for many SMEs, and that’s fantastic news because the trend for some time has been quite the opposite.
If we look to the US where there’s been a boom in shale gas extraction, domestic and commercial gas prices have been reduced significantly. The UK has to look at ways in which it can shrink bills, and the Chancellor is right to give this the green light. We can’t see many small businesses opposing this.
New power stations also means the lights stay on, and that’s something everyone will be happy about. Energy security is a national issue.