Today’s Budget included lots of small-scale schemes that have been trailed over the past few weeks, including the re-introduction of Enterprise Zones, limited regulatory exemptions for micro-businesses, and moves to simplify the tax system for employers and employees.

 

Overall, however, there’s a lot in this Budget for businesses to welcome. Despite the stringency of his deficit reduction plan, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, managed to pull two business-friendly rabbits out of his hat. First, the main rate of Corporation Tax is set to fall 2pc from April, rather than 1pc, and will eventually fall to 23pc by 2015/16. Second, the Chancellor did not just postpone the planned fuel duty rise, but actually cut duty by an additional penny.

 

Positive policy changes

The HCCI and the Chamber Network have campaigned hard for a range of changes to Government policy at this year’s Budget. Today, we can point to some positive outcomes for our lobbying and influencing work. These include:

 

• Faster and bigger reductions in the main rate of Corporation Tax, as well as promises of greater business tax simplification in future (building on years of Chamber lobbying work)

 

• Action to reduce the burden of regulation on micro-businesses and start-ups for the next three years (which we will monitor closely)

 

• Immediate action on fuel duty (though we will watch the proposed stabiliser mechanism and its impact on the oil and gas industry closely)

 

• Extension of small business rate relief holiday for an additional year

 

• A commitment to remove £1bn in business costs due to employment regulation by 2015, starting with cancellation of Time off to Train for companies with fewer than 250 employees (worth nearly £350m to business)

 

• A promise to implement the BCC-influenced Young Review of Health and Safety obligations

 

• At European level, a commitment to fight costly new regulatory proposals including the £3bn bill for the proposed Pregnant Workers’ Directive

 

• Improved tax reliefs for business investors and entrepreneurs

 

• Creation of 21 new-generation Enterprise Zones in England, plus a commitment to work on similar zones for Scotland and Wales

 

• Further work to be undertaken on crucial Corporation Tax changes for Northern Ireland

 

• Introduction of new ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ in the planning system (though we shall have to see its effect in practice)

 

• Implementation of BCC-influenced trade finance and trade credit insurance proposals for exporters

 

• 50,000 additional apprenticeships to be funded – we will monitor these carefully to ensure they are high-quality and meet employers’ needs

 

• Rejection of per-plane taxes and delay of APD increases (important for business and our regional airports, though more still to do)

 

Missed opportunities/more to do

We’ll keep pressing the Government on additional issues – including National Insurance, Empty Property Rates, aviation taxation, tax simplification, etc – where we feel the Chancellor and other Ministers could do more to help businesses in the Chamber Network and beyond.

We will also have more news in the coming days as the Government makes announcements on the first allocation of Regional Growth Fund money in England, as well as further details on Enterprise Zones and other local initiatives.