UKBF Says Autumn Budget Offers Little Reassurance For UK Small Businesses

UK small business owners have been left waiting for Rishi Sunak’s ‘Age of Optimism’ yet again today. Despite the much-hyped lead up to today’s Budget announcement, Sunak’s Budget was largely a non-event for small businesses and offered little reassurance of a robust plan for their pandemic recovery.

UK Business Forums (UKBF) founder, Richard Osborne, comments: “Rishi Sunak’s much-hyped ‘Age of Optimism’ has left small business owners feeling less than enthused. After the highs and lows of the roller-coaster that small business owners have ridden for the past 18 months, the Budget is something of an anticlimax.”

Whilst the Budget wasn’t the massive hikes and clawing back of Covid-19 business support costs that members of UK Business Forums feared it might be, it also didn’t give very much encouragement to the small and micro business owners either.

Richard Osborne continues: “There were some positive announcements in the Budget, such as the one-off 50% discount on business rates for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, and next year’s business rates multiplier being cancelled, however, they will only benefit a small number of small businesses and multiple sectors have suffered blow after blow since the pandemic began.”

“The needs of small businesses should be at the centre of the Budget. They are at the heart of local economies and communities and it’s high time to level up business support for all small business owners. The rates relief will be of some help to small businesses in certain sectors, but we fear it will not be enough. It’s a short-term plaster over a much bigger problem in the high streets the length and breadth of Britain. A more long-term approach needs to be taken towards modernising and supporting the long-struggling high streets that have been decimated by the pandemic.”

The Community of small business owners in UK Business Forums contributed to the government’s recent consultation into levelling-up Britain. In the Budget, Sunak has pledged £5.7billion for local transport upgrades in regions including South Yorkshire, the North East, North West England and the West Midlands and we wait eagerly to see what these upgrades will be.

Richard Osborne continues: “The small increase in dividend tax wasn’t shocking, and can in some ways it’s a step towards balancing the drawing of funds from business between PAYE and dividends.”

“Many of Sunak’s announcements will only benefit specific small businesses. UKBF fully supports the encouragement and adoption of green technologies, but the green investment relief and business rates improvement relief will only benefit some.”

“When we discussed the (then) proposed increases in the National Living Wage (minimum wage) to £9.50 for anyone over the age of 23 with the UKBF Community, it was clear that most small businesses were already paying fair wages and had to increase wages to retain their staff. What we would have liked to see is support for small employers through a rise in the Employment Allowance.”

“The skills gap and shortage in HGV drivers have been widely discussed in the UKBF Community. It is by no means a new issue, but it has gained new prominence in the media because of its impact on consumers. We were encouraged to see support in the Budget for the transport industry and new funding to help lorry park facilities. Additionally, the suspension of the HGV levy until 2023 and freezing of vehicle excise duty for HGVs.

We need broader measures for all small businesses. Much like the past 18 months, this Budget leaves us asking, ‘Is that it?’