The Chancellor delivered his final Budget ahead of the UK’s formal departure from the European Union. Despite the uncertainty ahead, this was a good Budget for business with some fairly major wins, including some significant progress on business rates.
The Chancellor announced one third off for retail premises up to a rateable value of £51,000 in 2019-20 and 2020-21. This was welcome relief for small retailers, but is a temporary policy change and did not go far enough in addressing the fundamental challenges with the system.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:
“This was a rock-solid budget, bringing more treats than tricks for business.
“It recognises the enormous contribution enterprise has made to balancing the UK’s books through jobs, pay and tax and responds to many of the recommendations that firms have made.
“But while the Chancellor has reduced some of biggest barriers to growth, he has missed some opportunities.
“That said, the new investment in broadband, research, housing and infrastructure will help tackle the UK’s glaring regional equalities head on.
On business rates, Carolyn said:
“Smaller businesses will be relieved by the support on Business Rates at a time where the current system is crippling many high streets. But larger retailers and manufactures - and the millions they employ across the UK - will continue to suffer needlessly until there is a full, in-depth review.
On the apprenticeship levy, Carolyn said:
“Ongoing reform of the apprenticeship levy and collaboration with business on retraining reflects long-standing business advice and will help individuals adapt to a fast-changing world of work.
On investment proposals, Carolyn said:
“The Chancellor has come up trumps with a bumper package to spur firms to invest more into their factories and machinery, with the improved Annual Investment Allowance and incentives for spending on buildings.
On the end to PFI & PF2, Carolyn said:
“The end of PFI and PF2 is not a huge surprise. The important question is how, working with the new Centre of Excellence, a new model of business working to deliver the government projects that would otherwise gather dust will be built.
On a digital services tax, Carolyn said:
“The picture on tax is more mixed. Going it alone on a digital services tax is high risk. The Government should move in step internationally, leading multilateral solutions, or risk losing our global competitive edge in digital.
“All businesses should be at the cutting-edge of digital technology. If the UK is to break ranks with the international community, any new approach must be carefully built on evidence from a wide range of enterprises of all sizes.
On the impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Carolyn said:
“But there is no hiding from the dark clouds of Brexit uncertainty. The Chancellor has made clear that this Budget will need urgent attention in the event of ‘no deal’, showing yet again the seriousness of the situation and the need to get a good deal over the line.”