Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Members of the business community have been reacting to the Chancellor's first Budget statement to the House of Commons.

In the Budget, the Chancellor painted a picture of a "robust" economy in the face of uncertainty since the EU Referendum result. He started by saying that government is “building foundations of stronger, fairer, more global Britain".

But what did the business community think about the Budget? We've gathered a collection of opinion from national business organisations, and entrepreneurs.

Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

"The FSB welcomes the fact that the Chancellor has listened to the small business-led campaign on business rates. The £435 million of new money is a direct and much-needed response to those facing astronomical hikes in their business rates.

"Mr Hammond announce that he would take forward FSB's proposals to help the self-employed in the benefits system. We look forward to working with him on what this may mean for maternity benefits and paternity leave. However, the National Insurance rise to 10% next year and 11% in 2019 should be seen for what it is - a £1 billion tax hike on those who set themselves up in business. This undermines the government's own mission for the UK to be the best place to start a and grow a business, and it drives up the cost of doing business.

Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, said:

"For the UK economy to punch above its weight post-Brexit, we need to start ramping-up the number of young people entering the labour force with work-ready higher skills. That's why CMI welcomes the Chancellor earmarking £500m a year to support 16-19 year olds in technical education."

Chris Bryce, chief executive of Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, said:

"If you are one of the hardworking self-employed people who face a significant increase on your tax bill, you might feel that the Chancellor has it in for you. When you look at the additional support offered for business rates, it appears as if the Chancellor is supporting SMEs by hitting entrepreneurs and the smallest of businesses.

"Adding in the reduction in Dividend Tax allowance, whether you work as a sole trader or through a limited company, you will be facing higher bills. The Chancellor shouldn't forget that growth in self-employment has driven our labour market in recent years and punitive rises in tax will make people have second thoughts about striking out on their own.

"It's entirely right for the Chancellor to look at taxation of the self-employed, but changes should only come after a thorough consultation with the business community, which has not taken place."

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said:

“This is a breakthrough Budget for skills. There has never been a more important time for the UK to sit at the global top table of technical education for young people.

“Firms will be looking for ongoing partnership with the Government as they try to make the Apprenticeship Levy work.

“However, with inflation rising and the cumulative burden weighing on businesses’ shoulders, limited relief for firms hit hard by business rates falls short.

“Firms are wholly committed to the health and wellbeing of their people, and are pleased to see an increase in spending on social care.”

Edward Hardy, economist at World First, said:

“Today’s budget certainly towed the line; Hammond’s reforms were predictable – just as he intended. However, the announcements were less gimmicky than previous budgets and tied to the Prime Minister’s agenda of social inclusion, pragmatism and future proofing of the economy. This year’s growth forecast has been upgraded but, crucially, longer-term growth expectations have either remained unchanged or been revised lower, suggesting the OBR believe recent economic strength is a front-loaded outlier, not a new normal. Other tax tweaks are to be net neutral in fiscal terms, despite Hammond quietly conceding that public spending will still be running £100bn higher as a direct result of the EU referendum result last year.”

Nilesh Shah, CEO of Blick Rothenberg, said:

“This was very modest Budget. The Chancellor is keeping his powder dry for post Brexit challenges."

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