What business really hopes George Osborne will announce today
We asked some of Britain's best-known business leaders what the Chancellor should say in his Autumn Statement: here's their verdict
Tuesday 29 November 2011
John Cridland, Director-general, Confederation of British Industry
"The Chancellor can't take risks with our hard-won market confidence. We even saw British bond yields below those on German debt last week. But there have been encouraging signs of bold Government thinking. There never was a better time for "Plan A plus" [The CBI's proposals to attract £200bn of private sector investment into UK infrastructure over the next five years].
"The CBI wants to unlock private sector investment to kick-start growth. We want to get shovels in the ground, by using road-tolling schemes to attract private investment, and bringing forward planned road projects to improve congestion and create new jobs."
Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief executive, WPP
"Basically, the Chancellor needs to outline a growth strategy that supports hard and soft infrastructure, as well as technology, education, immigration and taxation. He will also have to balance that with the cost containment in the first 18 months which has already established external confidence."
Dalton Philips, Chief executive, Morrisons
"We're looking for common sense. A huge hike in business rates, particularly when based on just one month's retail price inflation growth, which in September was the highest for over 20 years, would at this point in the economic cycle be a kick in the teeth for retail when what we need is a shot in the arm.
"We're also looking for measures that set out a clear path to growth. We're particularly concerned about unemployment, especially for young people. We'd like to see really decisive action, for example through further support for apprenticeships which provide a great starting point from which people can build a long term career in retail. Companies such as Morrisons are investing in apprenticeships because we recognise the role they play in helping large numbers of young people gain the qualifications, skills and confidence to fulfil their potential. The right action for young people and the right action for the high street is what we need."
John Maltby, Group commercial banking director, Lloyd Banking Group
"If there is one critical issue for the Chancellor to address it is business confidence. The credit easing plans designed to target new funding at small and medium sized businesses should be welcomed. But the success of these measures will be determined by the extent to which they encourage businesses to borrow and invest for growth. With that in mind, I'm hoping for a set of measures which together help to stimulate demand. The anticipated boost to infrastructure spending could have an immediate impact, as contracts become available to small and medium sized firms. And in the longer term, the resulting improvements in services and communications should also support competitiveness."
Steve Bateman, Director of corporate, commercial and business banking, Santander
"The Chancellor needs to inspire confidence while remaining realistic about the challenges ahead. He needs to find some way to inject additional demand on a sustained basis and in a manner that does not put at risk policy credibility and the low interest rates at which the government is able to borrow.
"One idea would be targeted infrastructure spending, starting with what in the US are known as 'shovel ready' projects, to make business easier. To encourage business growth this could be combined with targeted tax measures to boost export capacity and encourage investment in equity over debt. However we do have to recognise that that this would be a gradual process."
Stephen Robertson, Director general, British Retail Consortium
"Restoring customers' confidence to spend and rebuilding retailers' appetite to invest and resume job creation must be the Chancellor's first concerns today. With consumer spending now in recession, tax increases due to increase the squeeze on household budgets, and retail employment now falling, he needs urgently to deliver a positive agenda for growth by holding back the costs that are under his control. Retailers and customers need action on Business Rates and fuel costs. Under current convention, April's Business Rates increase is determined by the previous September's retail price inflation figure. That would mean a massive 5.6 per cent business rates increase next April on top of a 4.6 per cent increase this year."
Doug Richard, School for Startups founder, former Dragons' Den investor
"It won't be in there but what I would have hoped for was a specific tax relief targeted at increasing the amount of capital that flows into newly started or young businesses. It's been shown that almost all new jobs and productivity growth come from young, entrepreneurial businesses and one of the biggest obstacles these businesses have is the absence of available seed stage capital. What needs to be done is something very radical – an opening for a direct tax credit on an annual basis for money invested into a new private retail business. This would be much better for the business because the money wouldn't have to go into the Government and out again and it puts the money in the exact place where economic growth happens. I have a good deal of time for what the Government is trying to do but they are beset by conflicting tensions. This is something that actually moves economies but it doesn't make headlines."
Theo Paphitis, Owner, Ryman
"What we don't need tomorrow is political window dressing. We need real help for small businesses, which account for about 50 per cent of UK Plc [GDP]. Small businesses need more flexibility in the way they employ people. Employment is the key thing. You have to keep people in work and make them feel confident about their jobs. If people are worried about their jobs they don't spend – it's a vicious cycle.
"Like it or not, the British economy is a consumer economy. For retailers, business rates are ridiculously high at the moment and are killing the high street. The high street is under attack from the supermarkets, shopping centres and e-commerce. The butcher, baker and candle stick maker are now in the supermarkets. For the high street, it is ludicrous they are expanding parking restrictions, not just in Westminster, but in many towns."
Clive Dix, Chief executive, Convergence Pharmaceuticals
"Securing the financial environment for small and medium sized biotech companies is essential. As an industry we would like to see the Chancellor confirm two of the measures the Treasury consulted on this year: the delivery of the Patent Box and the extensions of R&D tax credits by removing the PAYE cap. We also hope the Chancellor does not change the definition for R&D tax credit eligibility from 'going concern' status to one of 'company in difficulty' as this would be devastating for research intensive life sciences companies in the UK.
"Looking at a wider picture of innovative companies in the UK, we would like to see the Chancellor introduce a scheme similar to the French 'Citizen's Innovation Fund'. The scheme would be targeted at mid-net worth individuals and allow up to £15,000 per person per annum to be invested, tax-free, in funds which are exclusively targeted at innovative SMEs."
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