Call for Budget Day aid for business

Carolyn Fairbairn
Carolyn Fairbairn

An influential British business group has urged the Chancellor to throw a lifeline to business to help it grow after the UK leaves the EU.

The Confederation of British Industry has written to the Chancellor ahead of the October 29 budget to urge him to help British business get through Brexit.

To set the UK on the right path, Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director general, urges Philip Hammond to focus on three key areas to unlock growth.

They are, reform business rates to ensure firms can invest and grow, build on recent announcements to make the apprenticeship levy work; and improve capital allowances to drive investment in digital and low carbon technologies.

The CBI said the Budget must also help tackle the immediate impact of Brexit uncertainty. Increasing the annual investment allowance will help lift the fog of uncertainty that is holding back investment, while hundreds of thousands of firms need help planning for the changes ahead. They urgently need a one-stop shop for advice and information as the clock ticks down to March.

She said: “As we near the end of Brexit negotiations, the world’s gaze is fixed on these shores. This Budget is a pivotal moment and chance to showcase the UK as an open, collaborative and confident nation. Entrepreneurs here and around the world need to see a UK committed to harnessing the power of business to innovate and tackle problems, from sustainability to inequality.

“With skills shortages, uncertainty and the squeeze in incomes on the rise, this couldn’t be a more critical time to plug the drain on the UK’s productivity and deliver prosperity that is shared by workforces and communities across the country.

“The Government must focus its attention on making the UK a shining beacon of enterprise, at the top of every investment league table and known worldwide as a country that attracts, not deters, capital and talent.

“The single most effective remedy to the structural challenges facing the British economy is a simple one – increased business investment.

“By investing in workers, equipment and crucially, digital and new technologies, the UK can establish itself in pole position for the future. This is also the best way to raise productivity, and prosperity in all corners of the country. A win-win for all.

“UK businesses have been underinvesting for many years, with the country suffering from the lowest level of business investment as a proportion of GDP in the G7. This is not because they don’t want to invest, but because the conditions are so often not conducive to doing so.

“With the right government policy and support – from reforming business rates to ensuring the UK remains globally attractive to the financial services sector – this can change. As the UK leaves the EU, there is no better moment than this Budget to show the Government is committed to real partnership with business.

“Wherever possible, the UK must move in step internationally to address the tax balance in a way that is sustainable and doesn’t damage the UK's global competitive advantage.”