The British Chambers of Commerce has laid out its hopes for the forthcoming Autumn Statement, which the chancellor Phillip Hammond will deliver next month.
Top of the wishlist is a call to increase resources to directly support SME export plans, which the BCC defines as ‘direct monetary support for firms to explore new markets or deepen sales abroad’ – something that both the CBI and BCC have been vocal about since the EU referendum vote, when the value of sterling plunged.
Also on the list was a call for the Treasury to underwrite more investment in infrastructure, so critical to maintaining a healthy small business sector. Direct investment in ‘quick-start’ infrastructure projects such as housing and broadband – to ‘crowd-in’ private sector investment in infrastructure, regeneration and growth,” is vital, the Chambers said, pointing out that the Chancellor has already responded in part to this with a new housebuilding programme
“More tax reform needed’
Alongside broader calls for investment and support for SMEs were detailed proposals to minimise the burden on small business. That included a call for 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.”
There was also a call for improvement in the way the forthcoming Apprentice Levy is rolled out and administered. Improving the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy should be a priority, according to the BCC. “Levy-paying businesses should be able to support high-quality workplace and vocational training, in addition to apprenticeships
‘Westminster must do everything to improve business environment’
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.”