The Budget round-up

Here's our round-up of all the main proposals in Darling's speech that would have an impact on small businesses - and what you should make of them. Please do share your reactions in the comments section below.

Money

  • Everyone in the UK is to be guaranteed access to a bank account. This will extend the facility to more than a million currently denied it, the chancellor says.
  • Agreements with RBS and Lloyds that they'll lend at least half of a £94bn pot to small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Small businesses will have the right to appeal if they are turned down for bank finance. Complaints will be fast-tracked through a new credit adjudicator service.
  • Labour will create a new investment corporation called UK Finance For Growth to handle a support system for businesses worth £4bn.

Tax

  • The main rate of National Insurance Contributions will go up by 1p, but not until April next year. The rise won't apply to anyone earning less than £20,000.
  • Next month's planned 3p increase in fuel duty will be staged to soften the blow. It will go up by 1p in April, another 1p in October and a final 1p in January 2011.
  • Alcohol duty will rise. On cider it will go up by 10% from midnight tonight.
  • Tobacco duty will increase by 1% immediately.
  • Entrepreneur relief for capital gains tax will double. (The main rate of capital gains tax will stay the same.)
  • Business rates will be cut for a year from October, meaning a reduction for 500,000 small firms in England. 345,000 small businesses will pay no business rates at all!
  • Tougher measures on non-doms, which may hurt non-dom investors' willingness to make money through venture capital funds in the UK.

New opportunities

  • The number of government contracts that go to small and medium-sized firms will increase by 15%.
  • The annual investment allowance will be doubled to help new companies get off the ground.
  • Darling aims to set up a 'green bank'. It'll control £2bn of equity and will invest in green transport and energy, with wind turbines first on the investment hit-list.
  • There will be a £35m university enterprise capital fund to help student and graduate start-up companies and uni spin-outs. £270m to create 20,000 more places for maths, science and engineering degrees will feed nicely into this.
  • A new Growth Capital Fund will offer £500m to small businesses in need of finance - £200m of which will be provided by banks.

Employees

  • The government is looking into scrapping the compulsory retirement age.
  • The guaranteed offer of work or training for those under 24 who are unemployed for more than six months will be extended until March 2012.

What it means for you

First things first - the vast majority of this assumes Labour get re-elected, which isn't looking all that likely. It might still be just about possible, and even more so with a Budget like this, which has pretty obviously adopted a populist stance of tax the rich to help the poor and struggling (you can read the full transcript containing all measures here). But it's unlikely.

But one thing's for sure: Labour are definitely pulling out a good few stops to try to lure small businesses back into their camp. More bank lending to and investment in struggling and green businesses, encouraging university spin-outs, doubling the annual investment allowance - all send a very pro-enterprise message. But there's nothing that ground-breaking here. Labour are always announcing new funds for new businesses. That's not to say it's not welcome, just not revolutionary.

Encouraging university enterprise centres is smart - there's lots of good stuff coming out of them, and a lot of young people need support with figuring out how to monetise their great inventions.

The business rates are the real winner here we reckon - that'll be very welcome news to loads of you. We also like the potential scrapping of the compulsory retirement age (find out why we'd like this to happen).

We're not sure how the guarantee of all those jobs for young people is going to happen. If small businesses get incentivised to employ them, great - if not, it's surely a bit of an empty promise. And increasing the number of government contracts for small businesses - we've heard it all before and it never seems to happen. (Find out more about public sector procurement as a small business.)

But it's really bad news for the pub and bar industry, who always seem to get a bashing in the Budget. The enormous 10% hike on alcohol duty on cider is awful, and will really squeeze the often small orchards and brewers who make it. Less severe but more general increases to alcohol duty and tobacco duty are no great surprise but still a nasty blow to an industry that's already suffered heavily throughout the recession and really could do with a bit of a break. Surely there are better ways to deter the public from overdoing it with fags and booze?

Overall, we quite like this Budget as far as most small businesses are concerned. That said, it is far, far easier to make all these brilliant promises when it's looking like you won't have to follow up on a single one of them. And it wouldn't be the first time a government had made promises to try to rally support when deep down it never had a single intention of following through with them.

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