Overall, this was a confidently and competently delivered Budget. Business will, on the whole, be pleased to see the stability offered by the Chancellor’s speech with a firm commitment to return the national accounts to a stronger position and the avoidance of any overly grand political giveaways this close to a general election. Undoubtedly it was a Budget for voters rather than for business, though there were a number of positive measures that the business community in Greater Manchester will welcome.
Greater investment into UKTI’s export services to China are positive, though we would have been pleased to see a much broader-based support to exporting businesses, both new and existing. New and emerging markets are important but we neglect our traditional trading partners at our peril.
The commitment to a headline corporation tax of 20% gives the UK a clear advantage in international competitiveness and the broad-based review of the business rates system is welcome news indeed. Continued focus on business taxes is important and we would be pleased to see greater focus on input taxes as well as output taxes such as corporation tax. The lack of a commitment to a high-level of annual investment allowance was disappointing and we will continue to place pressure on the government in advance of Autumn Statement 2015 to ensure that this important initiative is delivered in full.
The simplification of reporting on tax for small businesses and new entrepreneurs by the abolition of the annual tax return will be welcomed but the experiences of government delivering new IT systems in this space is not good. Government must resolutely focus on the successful delivery of new schemes, not just their announcement.
The Northern Powerhouse was mentioned once again and the 100% retention of business rates growth in Greater Manchester is another important step in securing greater autonomy for the city regions of the UK. We had hoped for greater certainty of the delivery of HS3 and the wider One North proposals though we place firm hopes on the establishment of Transport in the North to be announced later this week and the move to a delivery plan for these schemes over the coming months.
The introduction of an Apprenticeship Voucher will aim to place employers in greater control of the government funding for apprenticeship training. This should help to give employers a more powerful voice in determining the quality and value of training that their staff receive.
Overall, the Chancellor has achieved a successful middle ground balancing the need for prudent fiscal management whilst delivering some positive messages and providing a vision of stability. Regardless of the outcome of the general election, we call on whichever parties form the next government to remain focused on retaining that stability and delivering continued investment into the business community and the economy as a whole.
To access a full summary of the key announcements for the business community download our Budget 2015 summary table below.