23 April 2009

Rarely have I approached a budget less optimistic that anything would be done to stimulate enterprise – the good news is that I was not disappointed! Once you look behind the political “crowd pleasers” there is nothing to cheer anyone in business or indeed considering starting one.

We all appreciate that the public finances are in an unprecedented mess but real action to address this would in itself be good news for business. What companies need is:

– faith in a governments ability to accurately forecast growth (or decline) which the Treasury seems spectacularly unable to do. They have stretched the bounds of credibility too far this time and it begs the question of the Treasury – are they political “spinners” or public employees providing unbiased opinion based upon fact?

– a clear medium and long term strategy to eradicate the record levels of debt which we currently see. This was no-where to be seen. History will treat very harshly those who play politics with the future of millions of people. In the last 18 months the government has mortgaged the future of the next generation for the next 18 years.

– incentives to reduce unemployment by taking on extra staff. Unfortunately the tax on employment for businesses is so high that to increase your work force at the moment is actively discouraged. A holiday on employer NI for all new employees taken from the unemployment register would be enough to sway some business towards employing new staff, thus saving unemployment benefit and increasing the tax take.

– belief in the fairness of the system. Small businesses cannot afford high powered tax advisors and so in general pay full tax on profits earned. Big business pays a fraction as they employ tax avoidance advice to minimise their contribution. If you analysed profits announced by FTSE100 companies and then the corporation tax paid there would not be a high correlation! Tesco announced £3billion in profits recently – what is the size of the cheque that they will be writing to the Treasury?

Simple measures to encourage enterprise could radically improve our economy, revitalise industry and capture the innovation that exists in this great country. But we see nothing. Some nods to the lobbying by big business which will do little for the economy. Does anyone truly believe that offering a £2000 part exchange on a 10 year old car which you must have owned for at least 12 months will make people rush out to buy a brand new car?! If you ride around in an old banger the chances are that you do not want or cannot afford a new car.

The debt fuelled boom has ended with the biggest bust ever seen. The future is based upon saving and investment (not the euphemism used by government in lieu of spending), reducing and eliminating debt so that future generations can benefit. Delaying this strategy by even a few months condemns us to years of misery – this is no time to play party politics.

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