SMEs have reacted with dissatisfaction to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget 2023, with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) describing it as a snub to small business strivers.
FSB national chair Martin McTague said: “The distinct lack of new support in core areas proves that small firms are overlooked and undervalued. Budgets are about tough choices, and with today’s billions of pounds being allocated to big businesses and households, 5.5 million small businesses, and the 16 million people who work for them, will be wondering why the choice has been made to overlook them.”
The Budget failed to offer help on energy costs to small firms and there was no move to exempt more smaller firms from business rates; FSB said there was a clear lack of understanding of the role that SMEs will need to play in economic recovery: “Trickledown economics here simply does not work,” said McTague, referring to the £27bn given to big business.
Meanwhile, the proposals to help people with health conditions were described as ill-designed and a “[failure] to take any action to make it easier for small firms to recruit people locked out of the labour market.” Measures for the over-50s were described as token efforts at best, though FSB was pleased the Government had committed to its skills boot camp model recommendation.
The announcement on childcare was seen as positive in principle, however, McTague warned that this Government’s Achilles heel is in delivery and practicalities, also saying: “Delivering safe childcare is not only a matter of social justice but an economic imperative.”
The fuel duty freeze was a result of FSB’s campaigning and the increase in draught beer relief was also welcomed. The enhanced R&D tax credit is a significant step towards promoting innovation. However, the large proportion of firms that fall outside of the 40% intensity threshold will be left feeling mystified by the change in policy since last autumn. R&D tax credits have been the most effective industrial policy of the last ten years, creating cutting-edge products and services in the small business community.