Small Business Britain is the UK’s leading champion of small businesses, supporting all 5.8 million small businesses in the UK – no matter their location, their sector, or their ambition level.
We spoke to Michelle Ovens CBE to find out her thoughts on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget 2021.
Was this budget what you had hoped and anticipated?
Yes, this has been, as anticipated, a very ‘Small Business’ budget. Extension to September of key programmes such as furlough and SEISS, extension to VAT cuts and the business rates holiday, new grants and new programmes such as the new government-backed lending programme all recognise that the crisis is far from over for small businesses.
As we look to get small businesses out of this emergency period, this support is absolutely critical. These measures will help small firms move through recovery and start to look at growth again. The ambitious ‘Super Deduction’ programme should also unlock unprecedented investment in growth for businesses.
‘However, small businesses do continue to need support from across the economy, with spend, supply chains, skills and mentoring, as well as financial support from the Treasury. The ‘Help To Grow’ programme is a welcome step towards this, but will require a combined effort from both public and private sector. We all have a role to play in getting through this crisis and returning businesses and communities to growth, so they can thrive again.
What are your feelings towards the extension of furlough?
The extension of the furlough scheme is good news for small businesses. It has been an absolute lifeline for many firms and their employees, helping to preserve jobs and livelihoods. The continuation of furlough will be a huge support in helping small businesses transition into a period of recovery and get back on their feet.
In terms of skills and training do you think the provisions are realistic?
We welcome the Help To Grow packages as a strong step forward in practical business support. We know small businesses will be the engine of recovery for the U.K. economy and embracing all opportunities like digital training, digital vouchers and expert management training will be key to unlocking that potential.
It’s later on than hoped but what are your thoughts on the SEISS Support?
I am pleased to see the Chancellor is extending the number of people eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), to take into account the newly self-employed. With the pandemic restrictions continuing for a much longer period that originally anticipated, it is right that eligibility is extended. This intervention from the government will directly support sole traders and entrepreneurs who will no doubt play an important role in the UK’s economic recovery and future growth.
In terms of re-starting life as normal again, do you think the business grants will cut it?
The new business grants for those hardest hit by restrictions are extremely good news and a step in the right direction. Retail, hospitality, leisure and personal care have been devastated by the pandemic and need all the help they can get to get back on their feet. I am also pleased to see local councils incentivised to distribute their discretionary grants too as these should be a lifeline for a range of sectors, but have been widely held up across England.
Business rates are taking a holiday …
Extending the business rates holiday for retail and hospitality is very welcome to take some of the pressure off these hard hit sectors, as they look to open up again. We hope this recognition of the huge burden on small businesses that rates place, will play a role in the – surely imminent – rethink of the rates system across the UK.
In terms of VAT you must be pleased and relieved for all of the businesses that this will assist?
We are pleased to see the Chancellor answering the call from the hospitality and tourism sectors to continue the VAT cut. These sectors will need all the help they can get to return to prosperity and this long term approach to taking the pressure off is very welcome.
Do you think the Government is on point with the new loan scheme?
With this crisis going on much longer than anticipated, a new lending scheme is absolutely the right thing for many businesses. Good, valuable businesses often need just a bit of extra support to get through COVID. Recognising the way the Bounce Back Loan scheme helped many businesses keep going, and for many, given them more confidence and optimism, the details of the lending programme will be important, but overall is good news for businesses.
What is your reaction to the Super Deduction?
This ambitious and innovative new tax incentive to encourage investment is very welcome. We need to give businesses the confidence to invest and grow to boost the economy, and nowhere is this more impactful than with small businesses.
£1bn for new towns – sound good?
Absolutely. With high streets at the heart of communities, and playing a critical role during the pandemic in providing local support, we are encouraged by the £1bn announced for new town deals to invest in communities. The return to local during the pandemic has highlighted the importance of this and we should look for new ways to build back community hubs going forward.