By Jonathan Davies

Since the Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement, reaction has been flooding in from leading business organisations and SMEs.

John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

“The Chancellor has listened to the needs of business, despite tight public finances. The focus must be on reducing the deficit not just for this Government but whoever holds the keys to Number 11 next year.

“The FSB is delighted to see the double small business rate relief remain for another year and a full review of the outdated business rates system, something we’ve long argued for.

“The £400 million released to back the British Business Bank and an extension to the Funding for Lending scheme will provide much needed cash for small businesses.

“For our long-term growth, the Chancellor is right to support young people via apprenticeships and to spend on infrastructure. Our roads and rail urgently need updating. The £15 billion he has allocated for roads will upgrade our network and boost growth in our regions.”

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

“These major changes on stamp duty and business rates will be a shot in the arm for families and growing firms as they look towards 2015.

“The targeted focus on enterprise is right, but business innovators would have liked to see more on research and development (R&D) to boost UK investment.

“International tax rules are in urgent need of updating, but the decision for the UK to go it alone, outside the OECD process, will be a concern for global businesses, and moving the goalposts on offsetting losses risks creating a worrying precedent.

“We welcome the continued commitment to deficit reduction, but real challenges lie ahead to reduce future public spending, and fresh thinking on public services will be essential.

“In the long term, growth is about people, science and infrastructure, and we warmly welcome the financial support for postgraduate science students.”

Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said:

“This was a disciplined, long-term and forward looking statement with welcome reforms for businesses, employers, savers and home-buyers. The Chancellor was right to resist the temptation of politicised giveaways, and focus instead on long-term investment in infrastructure, science and efforts to boost the UK’s productivity. Deficit reduction remains of primary importance and this statement did not shy away from that reality.

“The statement demonstrated what can be achieved with limited room for manoeuvre by focussing on considered tax reforms. We’re pleased that that the higher rate tax threshold is heading in the right direction, but more can be done to end the scandal of fiscal drag and we look forward to the details of how the Government will meet its ambition to raise the threshold to £50,000. It’s also vital that our economic debate recognises the share of revenue paid by the country’s top earners. The Chancellor acknowledged that the top 20 per cent pay more in tax than the remaining 80 per cent. The greatest burden is indeed being borne by those with the broadest shoulders.

“Continued support for entrepreneurs, exporters, SMEs, apprenticeships and key industries are particularly welcome, as are the radical reforms to Stamp Duty, which have long been called for by the IoD.”

Phil Orford MBE, Chief Executive at the Forum of Private Business, said:

“The Chancellor was keen to provide a much needed boost for Britain’s small businesses and there were some positive measures in today’s speech which will go a long way to helping reduce costs and improving business confidence. Whether this will be enough as we enter a period of uncertainty at the start of next year remains to be seen.

“Business rates have been an ongoing concern for a large number of our members, with 55% in a recent poll seeing this significant barrier to business growth. It is good to see that the Chancellor has agreed with our suggestions of short term measures to reduce the pain of excessive property taxation with continued a continued cap of 2%, a £1,500 discount for retail properties and an extension on Small Business Rates Relief. While we also welcome the Chancellor’s decision to answer our repeated calls for a proper review of the system and the way in which it is calculated, the devil will definitely be in the detail. With the review scheduled for after the General Election, we are keen to see all parties commit to making concrete moves to tackle an issue that many businesses feel has needed addressing for some time.

“Announcements of additional British Business Bank and the extension of the Funding for Lending scheme are also welcome measures to address ongoing small business confidence issues around the ability to obtain the finance they need to grow.

"On the announcements of further scoping and development of a Northern Powerhouse incorporating several major cities, and increased tax raising powers to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, our members see this as a very positive further step in re-balancing our economy, not only in terms of financial services and manufacturing, but also in a commitment to support major regional and local development plans outside of London and the south-east.”

"While we applaud the increase in R&D tax credits - a successful driver for innovation, we would have preferred the relief to have been focussed on the formulation of a new Export Tax Credit to incentivise and support new exporters in riskier overseas markets."

Chris Sanger, EY’s head of tax policy, said:

“The Chancellor delivered a welcome Christmas present, just 22 days early, to the UK’s retailers and manufacturers when he announced today that he has listened to the calls for a structural review of Business Rates."

Simon Hill, CEO at Wazoku, said:

“George Osborne certainly delivered one of his more start-up friendly budgets / Autumn Statements today - £400m more for Enterprise Capital Funds that invest in fast-growing start-ups, £500m of bank lending via the British Business Bank and the Funding for Lending scheme (FLS) has been extended for another year. But with access to funding for start-ups such an on-going challenge, I’d like to have seen a little more clarity brought to the support that is already there. There are many schemes in existence but the complexity and red tape around them, mean they can be off-putting for start-ups and prevent them actually benefiting from such initiatives.”

James Pattison, CEO of Startup Direct, said:

“The Chancellor’s new package of measures to reopen more tradition borrowing avenues by boosting bank lending will be music to the ears of SMEs across the country who still cite cashflow as one of their primary concerns. The Government recognises that small businesses are the engine of the UK economy and it’s only right that the focus is on supporting their growth and expansion.”

Gary Turner, Managing Director of Xero, said:

“The doubling of business rate relief for small and medium-sized businesses for a further year is a much-needed boost.

“The Chancellor has shown that he recognises the crucial role played by small businesses in the UK economy, which is now moving ahead faster than much of Europe."

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said:

“We very much welcome the commitment to undertake a comprehensive review of the business rates system. We want a system that brings investment and jobs to the high street without punishing retailers who trade online. The retail industry is the largest rates payer, contributing over a quarter of the total rates tax take.

“Today’s short term support package will be of enormous help to those struggling to keep their businesses open on the high street.

Ian Morrison, Director of Risk and Operations at Liquid Finance, said:

"This year’s autumn statement is a positive one for UK businesses, especially those seeking internal investment. The economic growth forecast coupled with a steady inflation rate & falling unemployment levels is encouraging, and means that those companies that require vital funding in order to grow & expand are in a far better place than they were two to three years ago."

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