Published on March 26th, 2013 |
by Nick Doyle
Image © Oxfam Midlands 2013
There are a million ways to interpret the budget so, to avoid having a shotgun approach, I’m going to view the announcements in terms of business. We constantly hear about the recession in the chamber, hence this was George’s chance to address the opposite front bench and prove them all wrong. As is so often with government and George, however the report card reads “could do better”.
A real and tangible win for businesses comes in the form of the proposed vouchers to help businesses access growth advice – with £30m behind it there could be change seen from this proposal aimed at helping SME’s.
Although there has been an effort to shift spending towards growth, ring fencing some items will always constrain the impact that can be made. Perhaps more immediate investment in house building, business access to finance and support for those wanting to export would have offered better value for money and public good. Undoubtedly, healthcare needs support but, in order to un-restrict its expansionist regime, some are now starting to ask whether the NHS is growing out of tradition as opposed to need.
The Chancellor’s move to help smaller companies take on more staff is important and will go really well within the business community. Cutting employers national insurance bills by a significant £2,000 will hope those in need when they need it.
Some parts of the budget were left without clarification such as the Business bank and the proposed improvement to the Funding for Lending scheme. Transport and energy infrastructure was mentioned in an effort to raise confidence and make a commitment to them in the future, however, has enough been done to help these underfunded areas? Green infrastructure has yet to be guaranteed and, therefore, made a safe investment while the benefit of immediate spending on transport, providing jobs and growth, has been ducked. These represent measures proposed but without the teeth to judge what their impact will be.
Business rates remain a sticky subject – these have posed a problem in the past and have stayed so with little effective change to the regime at the moment. Likewise, international trade and export support was put off while British companies remain in need of more practical help overseas, yet are left adrift by current policies. You have to wonder why these have been put off when the economy is crying out for confidence and clarification in all areas.
In summary, a bigger shift in government spending towards priorities that unleash enterprise, which in turn could deliver jobs, prosperity and the tax revenues, needed to shrink the deficit and, eventually, the national debt. Has George missed his chance for this though?