Spring Budget Statment 2018

Wednesday March 21, 2018

Well, Philip Hammond has dropped his first spring statement on us, so it's time to sift through and see what it all means. Is he cementing his party's delcared status as "the champions of small businesses"? All told, there are some encouraging signs coming through – although we didn't see as much definite action as we would have liked. Here are a few of the key points:

Killing the late payment culture

Delayed payments can choke the life out of small businesses, and that message seems to be getting through to the government. The chancellor called for a review on how to eliminate late payments, specifically to smaller enterprises. That's certainly welcome, if a little vague at this point. With freelancers spending about 3 weeks of their year chasing up invoices, some effort toward breaking the late-payer culture would be a solid boost.

Skills to pay the bills

Skills shortages are a serious concern for many types of business. A couple of Mr. Hammond's statements were quite interesting in this area. For one thing, he's talking about pumping another £500 million into the T-level system. If you haven't heard about them, T-levels are aiming to transform technical education in the UK. They're about equipping students with skills that employers actively need. The chancellor also announced a £50 million boost to help businesses put those skills to work.

On top of those measures, we're also going to see £80 million being put into supporting small businesses who take on apprentices. That's a reasonably strong move, as apprenticeships can be a great way to forge that often-missing link between education and employment.

Business rate shake-up

Business rate are now going to be evaluated in 2021, rather than 2022. Revaluations will then take place every 3 years instead of 4. Apparently, this is meant to reduce the sudden jolt businesses experience whenever the rates change.

Going cashless?

As old-fashioned physical money falls more and more out of favour each year, we move ever closer to an entirely cashless society. The chancellor is kicking off a consultation to examine what this actually means for the UK. Many smaller businesses still rely on cash to survive, so that's obviously going to be looked at closely. The good news for those affected is that work is going into making sure they don't get driven out of business in an all-electronic future. Again, though, we're not exactly sure what that means in concrete terms yet.

Broader strokes...

Taking a wider focus, the spring statement talked about growth and productivity both moving in the right direction. A full spending review will take place next year, with government potentially spending more on public projects if the signs remain positive. There's a roll-out of high-speed broadband in the offing, with the first wave of funding for it now announced. That amounts to around £95 million being spent on getting people and businesses across the country online.

Overall, the small business reaction to all this has been cautiously optimistic. While Philip Hammond is proclaiming it a "turning point" in the UK's economic recovery, other voices are at least seeing the spring statement in a broadly positive light. The apprenticeship incentives are being welcomed, along with the noises being made about tackling late payments. Many were hoping for specific and definite action, rather than consultations and reviews, though.

So, what's your take on the 2018 spring statement? Can the government ever go far enough or fast enough in tackling the challenge of small business success? Are you sick of the wait and now taking the initiative yourself? Whatever obstacles you're negotating in your business, get in touch – and keep listening out for more Voices from the RIFT...

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