Yesterday's Pre-Budget Report has received a distinctly tepid
reaction from much of the press. With the exception of The Mirror,
which ran the enthusiastic headline 'Bank You Darling', other
papers were less impressed: The Guardian sort of half-shrugged and
muttered something about middle-income families, while The Times
mustered just enough emotion to accuse the Chancellor of not being
serious about reducing the deficit.
But what of those who matter? Business reactions were, on the
whole, similar: half-hearted, fractious, irritable. Here's our
round-up of comment from across the industry:
David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of
"The Pre-Budget Report sets out some
good schemes to support businesses - like the extension to the
Enterprise Finance Guarantee - but these have been undermined by
the announcement of an additional hike to National Insurance
Contributions in 2011.
"It's clear that NIC rises mean a
brake on employment growth. While everyone understands the
importance of restoring the public finances to a sustainable path,
a tax on jobs is not the way to do it."
"Businesses across the country still
want to see the detail of how the Chancellor intends to cut the
public sector deficit, and ensure more sustainable levels of public
spending. Investor confidence depends on it."
Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum for Private Business
"This year's PBR wasn't a terrible
one for small businesses, but it was fairly uninspiring.
"It was essentially a list of
recycled schemes. There were no new ideas in there of how to help
small businesses, just extensions to the existing ones. Of course,
we're glad that corporation tax for small firms wasn't increased,
and extensions to the EFG scheme, the Time to Pay scheme and empty
property rates relief can only be a good thing for our members.
"We were hoping this PBR would lay
the foundations of a bold new tax and regulatory environment which
would help small businesses prosper and grow. Sadly, we don't seem
to have seen that - it's a case of business as usual and it's not
John Wright, national chairman of the Federation of Small
"Extending the Enterprise Finance
Guarantee scheme, is a welcome move, although we wanted to see the
scheme extended indefinitely and promoted further to help small
firms get much-needed access to finance.
"The Government has missed a chance
to really tackle a difficult credit market by failing to create
more options for access to finance, and more competition among high
street banks. The Government should have addressed this challenge
and looked at options such as a regional stock exchange to help
small and fast growing businesses capture finance."
Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI
"There are a number of measures
which will give small and medium-sized firms breathing space at a
"Delaying the planned rise in
smaller companies' corporation tax is welcome. Extending the Time
to Pay scheme will give small and medium-sized firms longer to
spread tax payments, while the extension of the Enterprise Finance
Guarantee Scheme will help smaller firms obtain the credit they
need to operate. We had also been calling for empty property relief
to be extended."
On the whole, then, not an overtly negative reaction - but not
an overtly positive one either. Smarta was disappointed the EFG
scheme has only been given half the budget it had last year, and
suspects that many of the measures proposed will not be introduced
until after the election - when it's very likely finding the money
to pay for them will no longer be Darling's problem.