As the election draws ever closer it seems harder and harder to ignore the constant political jostling and media frenzy that comes with it. The Chancellor’s budget statement last month was another stoke to the fire. But amongst all the noise there were several proposals which could provide a great boost for smaller businesses in the UK; there were also some notable omissions.
To begin with there was a commitment to expanding Wi-Fi and ultrafast broadband to every corner of the UK. Aldermore are dedicated to its digital offering, we’re entirely online so that we’re open when our clients want us. In the asset finance team we’ve also recently launched App+ to help our introducers get a quote, access information or to make an application quickly and easily. Like us, small businesses increasingly have to be online to effectively service their clients and grow their business. Getting ultrafast broadband to every corner of the UK will help those businesses really utilise the power of the internet.
Then there was the announcement to do away with annual tax return forms. For many start-ups and small companies this will save a significant amount of time, and time is money. Hanging on to receipts and statements for a whole year is no easy task, and then there are the many hours spent bent over a computer trying to make sense of them all. The tax deadline is approached with dread by many as completing tax forms can mean upping your workload without it directly enhancing business. Creating an online portal where you can fill in your details as you go is a sensible step forward. A large chunk of our industry consists of one-man-band brokers or small introducers firms who will all no doubt welcome a simplified process.
However, I was disappointed that there was no firm commitment on the UK annual investment allowance. We have seen a number of changes to the allowance in recent years and the latest increase has really helped to encourage investment in UK SMEs, we need more of the same. A good investment allowance means businesses can make serious investment plans, boosting business and ultimately the wider economy.
I also await the Government’s plans for redeveloping the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Support. In February the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee reported that UK Businesses found the support schemes on offer complex and vague. This is something we know only too well as an industry, we therefore hope that any further reforms are clearly communicated and streamlined as far as possible. The introducer community needs as much support as possible so that you can best advise business owners. Aldermore remains committed to improving awareness of and access to finance and we will continue to work closely with introducers to make sure the message getting to businesses is as straightforward as possible.
I was reassured to see several measures coming out of the budget to support SMEs and Aldermore will continue to campaign for better investment allowances and improved awareness of funding options.
Carl D’Ammassa is UK bank Aldermore’s managing director for asset finance.