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Autumn Statement 2014: Did Brits get the ‘gifts’ they wished for?

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Real Business asked Brits whether their wishes had been granted this year. While some entrepreneurs and business owners cheered on the latest announcements, others, although they agreed it was a step in the right direction, wished more had been done for their sectors.

Simon Hill, CEO of Wazoku, said:

“Today was one of the most startup friendly Autumn Statements of this parliament – £400m more for Enterprise Capital Funds that invest in fast-growing startups, £500m of bank lending via the British Business Bank and the Funding for Lending scheme (FLS) has been extended for another year. But with access to funding for startups such an on-going challenge, I’d like to have seen a little more clarity brought to the support that is already there. There are many schemes in existence but the complexity and red tape around them mean they can be off-putting for startups and prevent them actually benefitting from such initiatives.

“The R&D tax credit increase (to 230 per cent) was one of the more interesting measures announced today. This will encourage innovation and disruptive thinking, which are pre-requisites for startups. That said, I’d like to have seen it go even further, with broader innovation tax relief that would have encouraged even more risk-taking in business and improved UK startups’ ability to compete globally.”

Stuart Law, founder and CEO of Assetz Capital, said:

“This is another sign that the government is firmly behind peer-to-peer lending: George Osborne has rightly recognised that investors lending through P2P platforms are the victims of a tax trap, and taken a positive step to help them. These rules won’t apply to lenders until April 2015, however, a simple way for lenders to reduce taxation already exists: avoid losses.

“In the short term at least, lenders are better off looking for platforms that minimise losses to start with – rather than using tax rules to recoup them. Keeping these rates low helps to reduce the tax burden faced by investors and increase their net returns.”

David Brimelow, managing director of Duo UK, said:

“It’s heartening to hear that manufacturing is the fastest growing sector of the UK economy and that’s testimony to the wealth of talent within the sector and the determination over the years of business leaders to get on with the job, whether or not ‘rebalancing the economy’ is the current political vogue. We’re a niche manufacturer and invest a lot in training and development but our growth is still restrained by a lack of skilled individuals, particularly for our engineering positions. 

“We are whole hearted supporters of the Apprenticeship Scheme but, while the abolition of National Insurance contributions for under 25s will help, it won’t fix the fundamental problem of an education system which isn’t vocationally focused. If the government really wishes to support manufacturing, it should consult with businesses and develop a robust vocational training programme designed for school leavers who want careers, not jobs.”

Neil Addley, managing director of Trusted Dealers, said:

“There wasn’t much for motorists in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, although I am pleased to hear that fuel duty will remain frozen despite falling prices. The most important thing to motorists across the country is the state of our infrastructure, which is why I welcome the Government’s pledge to invest £15bn into the country’s roads, which was announced on Monday. This will reduce the ongoing congestion and by increasing the capacity and condition of the roads, boosting the economy and increasing transport links between cities.

Ministers say this is the biggest investment in Britain’s roads in a generation, so I look forward to seeing the investment being fulfilled, not just promised. Research carried out by Trusted Dealers reveals British motorists spend around £3,453 every year on running their vehicles – equating to £100bn when applied to the 29.2mn cars on UK roads, so it’s about time drivers got something back from the government.”

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, said: 

“Today’s well-intentioned statement aims to fill some of the remaining cracks in the jobs market, by giving our youth a boost, and making the most of their potential.

“Financial support for masters and postgraduate students is a move in the right direction in solving the skills shortage – which is still holding back the recovery in sectors like IT and Manufacturing. The hope is it will attract more young talent into higher education, widening our skilled workforce. Tax breaks for businesses employing young apprentices will also serve to nurture talent. Combined, both measures should go some way to alleviating youth unemployment, setting us further ahead of our European competitors on that score.”

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