A Budget Statement is scheduled to take place on 22 November, and Swoop would like to take this opportunity to add our voice to the calls of the British Chamber of Commerce in asking for changes that will make a real difference to the SMEs which form the backbone of the UK economy.
While the press will be focussing on the pressures of facing Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to produce some vote winners ahead of a general election which must take place in the next 14 months, we hope that he will resist short term political gains in favour of making life a bit easier for businesses that have had little to get excited about.
One thing that will have businesses worried is the increase in the living wage that is scheduled to rise to at least £11/hour from next April.
Increasing the living wage will put the onus on businesses to spend more on payroll, which will only add to the problems facing employers. A recent report stated that 31 percent of SMEs cite high taxes as a major concern. At Swoop we would like to see this addressed in a meaningful way for these struggling businesses.
The other concern is around energy pricing: with further political turmoil in the Middle East and Russia/Ukraine, measures such as price capping would be helpful in avoiding some of the damaging price hikes businesses faced last winter. The current Energy Bills Discount Scheme for businesses runs until March 2024 and we would like to see this extended.
Other scheme extensions could include the current business rates relief scheme which is worth up to £110,000 per business. While this is due to end in April 2024, it has been a lifeline to many retail, hospitality and leisure businesses covered by the program. Extending this would be welcomed.
At Swoop, we would like to see more being done to support SMEs and echo the words of Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce:
“Business confidence is in a much better place than it was a year ago. But the pandemic, the energy costs crisis and higher interest rates all mean firms are less resilient than they were.”
Building resilience doesn’t happen by accident and too many great businesses are folding because the incentives for entrepreneurs have been eroded while costs have spiralled out of control.
The British Chamber of Commerce Autumn Statement submission has made five major policy calls that will have a direct and positive impact on the SME community:
- Reforming the planning system to speed up infrastructure projects and give businesses much needed room to grow.
- Introducing a rolling five-year guarantee for the continuation of the full expensing tax break, to increase take up.
- Upgrading the energy grid to unlock new business development and investment.
- Extending business rates relief for hospitality and retail businesses, freezing the multiplier, and looking at reforming the system to better reflect firms’ ability to pay.
- Introducing tax breaks to encourage firms to offer Occupational Health benefits that keep people in work.
Read the BCC statement here: https://www.simplybusiness.co.uk/knowledge/articles/autumn-statement-2023-what-it-means-for-small-businesses/
At Swoop we give our absolute support to these policy calls and hope that the recommendations are taken on board. The Chancellor should remember that SMEs cannot be squeezed indefinitely, even the ones that have survived the shocks of the last few years.
Businesses owners will be looking to next April and wondering whether they will see a massive rates rise, uncapped energy bills that swallow their profits and customers with even less to spend. After the lacklustre response to previous budgets, we hope that the Chancellor takes this opportunity to deliver some long-overdue good news for businesses.