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Autumn Statement verdict: modest, sober, pragmatic

25 November 2016

Autumn Statement verdict: modest, sober, pragmaticChancellor Philip Hammond's first mini-Budget has prioritised spending on infrastructure and innovation over cuts in a bid to boost the UK economy.

Business reaction to the Autumn Statement has been positive if muted. The CBI described it as "pragmatic", the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it was "modest and medium term", the Institute of Directors (IoD) said it was "sensible and sober", while the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) called it "responsible" and "solid".

As well as significant investment pledges for housing and transport, Hammond announced plans to invest over £1billion in digital infrastructure and he unveiled a new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund which will be spent on innovation and infrastructure over the next five years.

"Philip Hammond has delivered a responsible, solid and focused package that will reassure both business and markets", said Adam Marshall, BCC director general. "The chancellor's strong focus on the growth requirements of our cities, regions and nations will not go unnoticed in business communities across the UK."

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said the mini-budget would be "warmly welcomed" by businesses. She said: "The chancellor has prioritised a pragmatic down payment on future productivity growth. His emphasis on R&D, housing and local infrastructure will help businesses in all corners of the UK to invest with greater confidence for the long-term, during turbulent times."

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: "Our members are pleased with the confirmation of plans to reduce £6.7 billion from the business rates system, and the decision to make rural rate relief fairer for small firms. We also back the £2 billion per year boost for research, development and innovation, plans to improve management skills, the £400m to improve small business finance through the British Business Bank, and the doubling of export finance."

However, with growth forecasts for 2017 having been downgraded to 1.4% by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), Mike Cherry cautioned that "there will need to be stronger fiscal interventions to boost the economy next year, with the prospect of weaker longer-term growth looming."

As Philip Hammond delivered his first Autumn Statement he also announced its demise. From Autumn 2017 the annual Budget will be held in the Autumn and subsequent Spring statements will not be "major fiscal events".

Simon Walker, IoD director general, said: "We weren't expecting anything flashy today, and we didn't get it, but that's not necessarily a bad thing from the man in charge of the economy. Our members will welcome the fact that there will only be one Budget a year in future, as too much tinkering only makes the tax system more complex."

Read a round-up on the Tax Donut website.

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