Frances Dickens: My summer Budget wishlist


Now is the time for the government to deliver, says the Astus chief executive

The UK’s 5.2 million small businesses currently account for 48% of UK private sector employment and 33% of private sector turnover. Many of us openly supported Conservatives’ bid for power and now is the time for the government to deliver. As the CEO of a successful SME I’m hoping the chancellor’s summer Budget will address:

1. Reforming business rates

The government’s review of business rates is not due to report until Budget 2016, however with the British Retail Consortium reporting that business rates could cause 80,000 shops to close by 2017, this timetable may need accelerating. Given the review was a coalition initiative, it would be good to hear a renewed commitment in this the first Conservative budget for almost 19 years, to reforming and reducing business rates.

2. Reducing NEETS and bridging the skills gap

Latest figures suggest that the number of NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training)  has fallen to 943,000 which while good news, is still too high. Meanwhile there is a severe skills shortage across key growth areas for the economy such as the digital sector which is forecast to require almost 300,000 recruits at higher skills levels by 2020, according to the CBI. Next week’s budget should ideally address these issues and include an update on the 50,000 new apprenticeships Cameron pledged to create and on reforming the apprenticeship system as recommended by the Richards Review.

3. Encouraging entrepreneurialism by limiting intervention:

As the figures clearly show entrepreneurs and small businesses make a disproportionate contribution to job creation. Initiatives such as the British Business Bank, the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), and Entrepreneurs’ Relief are good news for entrepreneurs and we hope they continue for the foreseeable future.  I’d like to see the 8th July budget include further measures to reduce red tape and the burden on regulation specifically on small and micro businesses.

4. Clarity on EU membership

The signs are that the summer Budget will be concerned with domestic issues including cuts to Whitehall and welfare spending. However in the light of likely Grexit, businesses large and small will be looking for greater clarity around the UK’s future in Europe and the timings of our own EU referendum. 

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