Autumn Statement: change tone, boost business investment, and improve infrastructure, says BCC
Ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday November 23, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is urging the government to use its ‘reset’ of fiscal policy to pursue measures that incentivise business investment, improve infrastructure, and demonstrate the UK government’s continued support for business.
Pre-existing concerns over a slowing economy have been intensified by the political and economic uncertainty that followed the electorate’s historic vote to leave the European Union. The BCC’s recent Quarterly Economic Survey showed that businesses have lowered their expectations for hiring, turnover, and investment in plant, machinery, and training in the coming year.
The BCC believes that the Autumn Statement can create the foundations for the UK to successfully navigate the coming transition period, and remain a great place to do business for firms of all sizes.
The BCC submission, which was handed to the Chancellor when the BCC took a delegation of businesses to meet him at Number 11 in September, proposes seven key measures:
• A pledge to introduce no new input taxes or other significant costs on businesses for the remainder of this Parliament – matching the pledge made to voters on income tax, NICs and VAT during the 2015 General Election campaign
• Further fundamental reform of business rates – exclusion of plant and machinery from valuations; and bringing forward the switch of the annual uprating from RPI to CPI to 2017, from 2020
• Temporary widening of the Annual Investment Allowance – to include business premises improvements for a period of five years, alongside investments in plant and machinery
• Improving the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy – levy-paying businesses should be able to support high-quality workplace and vocational training, in addition to apprenticeships
• Direct investment in ‘quick-start’ infrastructure projects such as housing and broadband – to ‘crowd-in’ private sector investment in infrastructure, regeneration and growth. The Chancellor has already responded in part to this with a new housebuilding programme
• Increased resources to directly support SME export plans – direct monetary support for firms to explore new markets or deepen sales abroad
• Creation of an indirect tax road map – to give businesses much needed clarity to invest with confidence
Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“The Autumn Statement gives the government a great chance to set the tone for its relationship with British business, by pulling out all the stops to support investment, infrastructure improvements, and business confidence.
“The Chancellor made the right move when he signaled his willingness to use historically-low interest rates to invest prudently to support growth, and he has a golden opportunity now to use this fiscal flexibility to ‘crowd in’ business investment.
“Plans to lower business costs and support investment would help firms take risks and seize opportunities in spite of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Brexit process. Westminster must do everything in its gift to improve the business environment – and firms will repay that backing with investment, hiring, training and export growth.”