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Spring Budget "falls short" say business groups

23 March 2022

A rise in the National Insurance threshold, an increase in the employment allowance, new business rates relief and a cut in fuel duty won't be enough to protect UK small firms from the ravages of inflation say the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce.

Business groups have expressed concerns that chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has not gone far enough in his Spring Statement to protect UK small firms from the rising cost of doing business. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has described the fuel duty cut as "just a drop in the ocean compared to the larger tsunami of surging costs that is bearing down on firms and households".

CBI director-general Tony Danker said: "The chancellor has taken steps to sustain confidence in our economy. They are welcome but don't do enough to tackle the current challenges facing firms. His new plan to incentivise business investment from next year is very good news … In reality, we cannot wait until October to get growth going. The government needs to get moving straight away."

Shevaun Haviland, BCC director general, said: "The Spring Statement falls short of the action businesses needed to see today. While there are some positive announcements that firms will welcome, it did not fundamentally address the huge cost pressures they are facing.

"Businesses will be pleased that the employment allowance has been increased. This long-running ask of the BCC will provide a small amount of financial headroom for firms facing rising costs. But today was a missed opportunity to rebuild and renew the economy and ensure business has the resilience to weather the uncertain and volatile times ahead."

The British Chambers of Commerce is calling on the government to take further action, including the introduction of an SME energy price cap. Rising prices, said Haviland, leave "smaller businesses particularly exposed as they have neither the protections or financial support provided to households, nor the negotiating power of larger businesses. As the economic outlook is likely to get worse before it gets better, many firms will be forced to continue raising prices, further fuelling the cost-of-living crisis."

Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain, has also called for the government to do more to support small businesses. She said: "With small firms facing such tremendous financial challenges and uncertainty, and many still facing a fragile recovery from the pandemic, we hope that today's Spring Statement does not rule out further measures this year to ease small business cash flow and invest further in their recovery."

Echoing the need for more measures, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) described the Budget as a "good starting point". FSB national chair Martin McTague said: "We are very pleased to see the chancellor adopting our top ask for this Spring Statement: uprating the Employment Allowance to help small employers with national insurance costs … Together with a cut to fuel duty, these measures will provide crucial breathing space for our embattled small employers."

But McTague added: "With steep inflation, energy bills increasing fast, without the same support in place as enjoyed by consumers, and hiring pressures landing hard on small firms, more of the right stuff will be needed in the autumn given this challenging backdrop."

Written by Rachel Miller.

Image: HM Treasury on Flickr .

See our budget round-up of the key points affecting small businesses.

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