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Chancellor George Osborne Must Encourage Stability, Exports And Investment With Autumn Statement

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Chancellor George Osborne will announce his Autumn Statement on 5 December, but what do businesses want most?
Chancellor George Osborne will announce his Autumn Statement on 5 December, but what do businesses want most?

On 5 December, Chancellor George Osborne will take to the dispatch box and announce the details of his Autumn Statement, which will outline his plans for government spending and taxation for the next term.

Five key areas are expected to be tackled: the low growth expected in the short term forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the OBR's lower forecast for government revenue generation 2013 and beyond, the heavy fiscal tightening we've endured this year (and are likely to endure until the end of 2016 at the earliest), the OBR's view on the UK's performance so far and any new targets for getting public debt down, and gross domestic product up from 2015.

But what would businesses most like to see if they were given a magic wand to wave over Osborne's speech?

Banking

The British Bankers' Association has called for the chancellor to drive business confidence, to encourage exports and to achieve economic stability.

The BBA suggests he could achieve this by allowing 100% capital allowance for a limited period of two years to incentivise people to invest now and help build momentum behind the recovery, extend the Capital Gains Tax holiday under the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme for one further year and examine ways in which his Big Society Capital idea could find a quicker route to businesses, perhaps through the Community Development Finance Institutions network.

Along with many other institutions, the BBA has called on Osborne to also consider simplifying the Business Bank idea and to clarify which existing schemes and funding to businesses could be put under one big umbrella.

BBA chief executive Anthony Browne said in a statement: "We have seen encouraging economic statistics: now we need to encourage businesses to unlock investment in order to build a sustained recovery. The UK's banks are committed to playing their part in supporting the UK's economic recovery and growth: they are lending and approval rates are high. Now is the time to work together to add momentum to the businesses leading the recovery."

The BBA has also called for more investigations into how the bank could be used as a clearing house to help businesses seeking finance, as well as making sure any new rules don't hamper efforts to encourage alternative finance options, such as angel investors.

SMEs

Constant Contact, which helps thousands of small businesses, found most SMEs are calling for less regulation to help boost their business.

Annette Lafrate, UK Managing Director from Constant Contact told Huff Post UK: "We are quite clearly seeing their frustration at having red tape and regulations distract them from growing their business. On behalf of our customers and small businesses throughout the UK, I urge the government to find meaningful ways to reduce red tape that is hindering SMEs ability to run their business, and to focus on meaningful regulation that supports their rapid growth."

Steve Muddiman, vice president at invoicing firm Basware, was more concerned about the Business Bank, and called on Osborne to ensure enough governance was around it.

"The availability of finance is great, but too many small businesses rely on finance to bridge cash flow, not to fuel growth, which is the intention of the new measures. Instead, it will temporarily prolong the life of struggling small businesses, not actually solve the problem," he warned Huff Post UK.

"Alongside this extra financing, there needs to be regulations about financial processes, especially invoicing and payments collection. With better cash flow measures instilled, then the funding available to SMEs can be used for growth ­ both of themselves and of the UK economy."

Gary Stewart, director at IT and business change organisation Xceed called for tax breaks to "put money back into the pockets of businesses and individuals".

"If the government hopes to encourage private businesses to take up the slack of public sector redundancies then they need to give them the tools to become job creators. The restrictions of red tape, regulation, poor availability of credit and tax burdens all need to be stripped back if SMEs are to help bolster economic growth," he told Huff Post UK.

CBI

The Confederation of British Industries' director general John Cridland had three things on his wish list: for Osborne to leave pension tax relief alone, for the Business Bank to plug the finance gap for medium sized businesses and encourage exports, and to retain the confidence of the international markets.

"The CBI fully supports the government's deficit reduction plan. This is critical for the UK to keep the confidence of international markets," said Cridland in a statement.

“However, the government does have additional resources available... it will receive a windfall of up to £4 billion from the 4G spectrum auction next year. We believe around £1.5bn of this resource should be targeted on short-term, high-impact measures to support growth.

"These include: local government spending on road maintenance, incentivising take-up of the Green Deal, capping business rates at 2% in 2013, a new capital allowance incentive for infrastructure investment, and scrapping stamp duty on AIM shares to encourage investment in medium-sized businesses."

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