It’s that time of year again when the world of business, big and small, begin to think about the Autumn Statement. We could perhaps this year call it the Winter Statement as it's in December, but let's not split hairs.
After the fiasco that was the Budget in April, which saw George Osborne have to reverse a number of announcements – think the pastie tax – all eyes will be on the Chancellor with the hope he’ll deliver the Autumn Statement a bit better.
It’s highly likely he will be forced to announce that the Treasury’s books will not be balanced as had been hoped by the time of the next General Election. No doubt Labour will have plenty to say about that.
That aside, there are five key areas we think the Government could look at to help small business reduce costs.
A business rate freeze would help to stimulate beleaguered high street shops and other businesses. The high street needs help. It’s sick. Just look at the casualty list so far. Woolworth’s and Comet are the main ones that spring to mind, but the independents are finding it even harder.
Refraining from increasing fuel duty – at least for the time being – and introducing a stabiliser to regulate pump prices would benefit millions of firms. January’s 3p rise looms large in January, and would be a real nasty start to 2013. The Chancellor needs to ditch that, at least until the OFT publishes the findings of its investigation into fuel prices.
In order to drive job creation and business growth we are calling for the present National Insurance holiday to be expanded so it applies to the first two new staff taken on by all UK small businesses.
We would also urge the Government to rethink certain employment law proposals, such as planned changes to parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working to all employees. For small businesses, these are best left as informal arrangements between business owners and their staff and should not be imposed upon them.
Finally, to stimulate small business lending by allowing banking alternatives the ability to compete with the major players, we believe significant tax breaks should be handed to private lenders, including those embracing new and innovative peer-to-peer lending platforms.