British business: Over to you, Chancellor

What Britain's leading business figures want from the pre-Budget report as recession bites
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The Independent Online

Miles Shipside, Commerical director, Rightmove

Housing is very close to people's hearts, and their moods tend to go up and down with house prices; the housing sector is a key factor when it comes to this government being re-elected. One of the first things the Government should do is pressurise lenders to reduce mortgage rates so homeowners have more disposable income. The Government should look at pressurising the lenders to help out first time buyers. Other issues include stamp duty, maybe there could be holidays for certain brackets, The government might want to throw money at the housing associations to pick up unsold stock, so there is less on the market and demand increases.

Jon Moulton, Founder, Alchemy Partners

What I'd like to see is totally different from what he will see. I'd like to see Gordon Brown deal with public sector pensions. I'd also like to see his resignation in it (the pre-budget) because despite claiming he saved the world from this financial crisis he probably caused it. He said 10 or so years ago he would not let house prices go out of control. He didn't follow his own financial stability measures and he was the man with his hand on the tiller with the regulators and other authorities recently. I'd like to see some steps to reverse regulation; family leave, flexible working and that sort of thing; things that would speed up planning. In reality, I think he will spend his way through the crisis.

Justin King, Chief executive, Sainsbury's

Anything they can do to free up the economic environment for not just retailers but other businesses in general [is helpful]. One can see there might be calls for more regulations given the banking crisis, but anything that reduces bureaucracy and red tape is helpful. Businesses already feel incredibly constrained by current regulations. Retailers disproportionately pay business rates to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The way business rates are charged is on space rather than value. We completely subscribe to the view that at the time the consumer is looking for value for money, anything that burdens them cannot help."

Angela Knight, British Bankers' Association

The corporate tax regime is complex and can impact the banking sector in a way that is anticompetitive; and the industry is international operating out of the UK. So we believe the corporate tax regime needs reviewing on a holistic basis. The Inland Revenue's approach is not sufficiently friendly to overseas banks operating in the UK. The low interest rates are good for borrowers but not for savers – and they are often elderly people. So we need to look again at relieving savers of some of the tax. And the last thing is that if there is to be an economic stimulus package our preference is for it to be through effective tax cuts that are self-funded, rather than increasing long-term indebtedness.

Stephen Goodyear, Chief executive, Young's Brewery

The brewing industry needs all the help it can get, given the consistently rising costs. The duty on beer is always a hot topic and we are hopeful it could go down in next year's Budget. But there was a formula agreed for a period of time and whether the Government will relent on that is not clear. Another area that could be constructive is legislation. Pubs have been hit with more and more red tape in recent years and any relief on that front would be useful. It would also be a huge benefit if pressure could be put on the utility companies to pass on some of the money they are making because gas and electricity costs have gone up enormously.

Stewart Baseley, Chairman, Home Builders' Fed

The most important thing is to get liquidity back into the mortgage market so we are keen to see the banks deliver on the promise given to government as a condition of the injection of equity that they would increase lending. Second, the Government can assist the housing sector – either by using existing public funding in housing corporation budgets to buy more stock units from builders, or by considering alternative partnership models. Third is tax breaks to assist the private sector to invest in residential property. Many institutions and pension funds are interested in buying but there is no tax efficient vehicle for the investment.

Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief executive, WPP

I wouldn't advocate something sector specific; the advertising and the media industries will respond to the Government's general economic measures. What is needed is the continued development and improvement of the existing fiscal and monetary policies. There needs to be a greater level of cohesion between the two; we need a coordinated policy to help the economy. We need to improve issues not just around the price of credit which is available, but about the liquidity in the market and how willing British banks are to lend to each other. Some people have come up with decent proposals but I would call for more of what has already been done.

Stephen Alambritis, Federation of Small Businesses

As a mark of commitment to small business, a simple measure would be the cancellation of the proposed hike in the smaller company tax rate, due to go to 22p in the pound in April from 21p. In order to help small firms get their cash early, Companies House should monitor the payment time of the top 10,000 companies: the legislation is there but not the resources. We are also calling on the Government to make sure banks follow through on lending. And a £1bn small business survival fund would help viable firms that need working capital. Also, proposals that would hurt small firms, such as extending work place flexibility, should be delayed.

Paul Lester, Chief executive, VT Group

There will be an increase in unemployment, in terms of redundancies and lay offs, so the Government should do a lot of re-training so that when the economy comes back the UK will have a more agile, better-trained workforce that can compete effectively on the world stage. The people who get hit by a recession are always low-skilled workers, and the pre-Budget report is an opportunity to put in place funding to turn them into skilled workers. Alistair Darling could also make a difference by reiterating the Government's commitment to the various Private Finance Initiatives that are in the pipeline. There is nervousness in the market about whether the banks will support the projects.

Mary Monfries, PricewaterhouseCoopers

In an uncertain economic environment, businesses need as much certainty as possible. The entrepreneurial capacity of privately-owned businesses and the ability they have to adapt quickly to market changes and spot opportunities is what will help Britain weather the storm. Businesses need access to capital, so government intervention is needed around the flow of capital. The Government must create an environment where businesses can deliver on growth aspirations, which means consistency in the tax system. They must make responsible decisions about the level of regulation, and maintain the attractiveness of the UK to overseas investors.

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