Pre-Budget Report: the business reaction

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 Commerce (BCC)

"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 (FPB)

"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 enough."

John Wright, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

"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 critical time.

"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.

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