05/12/2012 16:36 GMT | Updated 05/12/2012 17:08 GMT

Autumn Statement: SMEs Hail Fuel Duty Rise Cancellation But Want More Info On The Business Bank

Small and medium sized enterprises did relatively well out of George Osborne's Autumn Statement, with investment incentives, corporation tax cuts and a consultation on allowing investment in SME equity markets to be held directly in ISAs all promised.

The scrapping of the planned petrol duty increase of 3p - due to come in on 1 January - also cheered many SMEs, who've been hit by soaring transport costs.

Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, said in a statement: "It's been a long time in coming that governments stop using fuel duty postponements as Budget sweeteners and instead set a longer term strategy.

“Fuel is a contentious issue for many businesses – we already spend £1 million a year on fuel for our fleet and any rise in petrol prices hit our business hard as we have no alternative – you can't expect a plumber to carry his tools on the Tube!”

The temporary doubling of the Small Business Rate relief scheme, which helps more than half a million small firms to pay small business rates of tax - and 350,000 businesses pay nothing at all - has also been extended to April 2014.

Kevin Nicholson, head of tax at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, was among many commentators who described the cut in corporation tax as "a pleasant surprise".

"(This) emphasised his commitment to making the UK the most attractive large economy," he said in a statement. "By and large, the chancellor stuck to his Open for Business Agenda... Businesses need stability and certainty so they can get on with helping the economy to grow."

The Business Bank also got many SMEs talking - on the whole there was a degree of frustration around the lack of detail on how smaller businesses were going to benefit from it.

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder of online freelancer marketplace PeoplePerHour, told Huff Post UK: "The chancellor skimmed over how firms will be able access these funds, how long the application process will take and, crucially, who will be eligible.

"The problem for small businesses has not been that lenders don't have cash to lend, it's that there are far too many hoops to jump through and red tape to cut to even get to the front of the line. Unless this bank is really open for business, this is just another hollow promise, a headline initiative with very little hope of doing what the government has earmarked it to do."

Duane Jackson, founder and chief executive of KashFlow, picked up on Osborne's claims that British people are now able to borrow money at lower interest rates than any time in our history.

"What about the rise in the popularity of payday loans and sites like Wonga? If low interest business loans are so readily available, why are so many people having to resort to high interest short term loans from services like these?" he asked.

"I would like to see startup loans initiative receive more money. If this was set up like the student loan service, ie repayments started once you earned over a certain threshold, then everyone wins.

"There's less pressure on the startup to repay the loan and a guaranteed payment back to the government, meaning it can essentially sell the loans as government-backed bonds and therefore raise even more money to fund them. We're familiar with this sort of virtuous-circle set up on a smaller scale in our collaboration with The Prince's Trust, so we're proof that it works."

SMEs Speak Up

Below are a few snapshots from SMEs who've contacted The Huffington Post UK to let us know their thoughts on Osborne's statement.

Rob Nicholls, managing director of Plastic Card Services:

"We'd have liked to have seen more measures that can help businesses like ours to stimulate further development in exporting sales. Exploring new markets requires a significant investment of time and resources from within the business, but what’s also essential is long-term support from government agencies such as the UKTI, and from our experiences, this assistance is currently still developing.

"The increase in the Additional Investment Allowance from £25,000 to £250,000 is very good news. This tax break on investment will encourage us to bring in new technologies which will give us a competitive edge both in the UK and especially in export.

Dan Wagner, chief executive and chairman of mPowa:

"The economic recovery of the UK hinges on investment in start-ups and SMEs. The UK has many small and medium-sized companies which have the potential to become world-class enterprises, and many firms are expanding, investing and creating jobs. However, very much more needs to be done to support our wealth creators of tomorrow in their efforts to build enterprises fit to compete and succeed in a global marketplace."

Jo Nockels, small business accountancy specialist at TaxAssist Accountants:

"The chancellor said there was no miracle cure, but there could have been more antidotes to help aid recovery. Extending small business rate relief to April 2014 is good news for many small businesses. We also welcome cancellation of the planned 3p fuel duty rise.

"But the government needs to do more to level the playing field and help small businesses access vital funding to create growth and jobs. Their competitors, often multinationals, benefit from paying reduced and sometimes no tax and so are able to offer far more competitively priced products and services."

Charlie Harry Francis founder of Lick Me I'm Delicious:

"The 10-fold rise in the annual investment allowance to £250,000 is great news for us – we were planning to curb our spending on capital investments for the coming year, so this gives a real boost to our 2013 growth plans.

"The corporate tax fall of 1% is good to see and the cut of 3% duty tax on fuel is welcomed, although fuel prices are still ludicrously high in the UK.

“I would have liked to have seen some simplification on employment tax contributions, as this is overly complex and discourages us from employing full time workers."

Jules Quinn, founder of The TeaShed:

"Well, it's a start. As an SME, there are schemes out there to help you, like the proposed Business Bank. But you can have all the willpower and backing in the world - if people aren't spending money then it's not going to happen for you.

"Our customer is the person who works really hard 9-5 and will spend little and often at a local small business. But with these people still being heavily taxed, they are spending less. The only way for an SME to survive and grow is for the public to spend and they are not going to do that if they have no money and their jobs are at risk."

Florian Richter, director of mobile point-of sale technology company SumUp:

"While the plan to freeze fuel prices will be welcomed by those business people who make their livelihoods from - and on - the roads, it is really a stay of execution, and not a pardon for most small merchants.

"Similarly, Vince Cable's Business Bank (which received tellingly little air-time today) sounds promising, but until more is revealed, it's difficult to know whether it will be a genuine game-changer for small businesses.

“Small businesses will need to look to their own strategies if they're going to survive this economic winter and thrive in 2013 – and that means pushing every small edge."

Nick Hungerford, chief executive of Nutmeg:

“The government could have seized this opportunity to reduce employers National Insurance for small and medium sized businesses and made changes to the employment law towards greater flexibility. However at a time when cuts are being made in all but a few areas of public spending we feel SMEs can be encouraged by the government's overall understanding of how important they are as the heartbeat of the UK's growth."

John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses:

“We are disappointed the chancellor has not extended the current regional National Insurance Contributions holiday to all small firms across the UK. The current scheme has only been taken up by 16,000 new businesses.

"Our research shows that if it were extended to all UK-wide micro firms it would create 45,000 jobs and add £1.3bn to UK GDP."