At the end of November last year, George Osborne outlined his plans for the UK economy. Central to this Budget ‘taster’ were a number of initiatives geared towards boosting growth in small and medium-sized businesses. But was it all just lip service to placate the angry SME mob?
CBI director general John Cridland has written to the Chancellor to remind him, pointedly, of his promise to UK business owners great and small. ‘The Chancellor must use this Budget to score the growth and investment policy goals he put forward in his Autumn Statement,’ says the CBI boss.
The key points (you can refresh your memory here too) are:
- a credit easing programme for SMEs worth up to £40bn
- the extension of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme
- a £1bn business finance partnership
And Cridland is also pushing for a handful more of these SME-focussed initiatives. These include: a simplification of taxes on carbon emissions; a lower rise in air passenger duty; and a new tax cut for firms that invest in infrastructure projects. ‘[Osborne must] make some targeted changes to the UK tax system, which could make an impact on business decisions and create new opportunities for growth,’ he says.
Cridland also has an eye on global investment. The business lobby head wants the UK to become a more attractive prospect for foreign investors: ‘Make sure the UK tax system is as internationally competitive as it can be,’ he urges. You can read his whole letter to the Osborne here.
These demands fall far short of the swingeing tax cuts suggested by Labour's Ed Balls. Indeed, the whole ‘Opposition’ thing isn’t working out too well for the shadow chancellor at the moment: Cridland has labelled Balls’ proposals ‘unaffordable’, in contrast to the CBI’s cuts, which are ‘modest and targeted,’ he says.
But the CBI’s recommendations do, indeed, seem very reasonable. ‘Delivering private sector investment in infrastructure, supporting mid-sized businesses, hammering out the details on credit easing, extending the Youth Contract to 16 and 17-year-olds, and introducing the New Build Indemnity Scheme for mortgages at the earliest opportunity will all provide a real boost for UK growth and jobs,’ says Cridland, laying out his biggest economic bugbears. ‘With our economy firmly under the international spotlight, there is no time to lose: Plan A plus must become a reality.’
Will all this attention on the Budget force Osborne to make good on his SME promises? We’ll find out when he dusts off the red briefcase on March 21…