If you own a small business, you’ve probably had many reviews of the Autumn Statement thrust at you through your Inbox, but they’re unlikely to have struck a chord.
So here’s my take from the perspective of the real world of small business- it ignores the strategic, high-finance highlights that have no relevance to us or that don’t have impact until 2025, and concentrates on the smaller more immediate matters, including one that seems to have slipped under the press radar!
First, some good news. Not much publicised but well worth knowing, the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme that was widely expected to be discontinued will carry on for another year. So use it! This isn’t automatic- you might not have to pay your business rates. But you have to apply to your Local Authority to get it, and it can be worth up to £12k a year.
Even more slightly good news… You may have heard about a levy being introduced that will be used to fund Apprenticeships (not quite so good, because scandalously high administration costs of 25% will be stripped off by government). But good because Apprenticeship funding is very useful to small firms. Better because unless your payroll is more that £3m you won’t pay the tax (it doesn’t kick in until 2017 anyway). This decision sends us a signal that Apprenticeships are going to be there for the long-term. So we should use them! You don’t need to allow a College or Training Provider to do the recruitment for you- do it your way (almost certainly better) and introduce an Apprentice to them! Apprenticeships enable you to recruit a new employee, get their formal training funded, and if you wish and they accept it pay a specially low rate of pay. You can even get grant payments of £1,500 for taking people on, for now.
Now slightly bad news- for those companies in the research and development field many InnovateUK grants will become loans. Probably not what you want to hear, but keep a watch via Google and the Innovate UK website.
Finally, I bet you didn’t pick up on this one in any briefings- A sad loss for small firms is the immediate end of the GrowthAccelerator and MAS (Manufacturing Advisory Service) services as a direct result of the spending review. Recently branded under a new “Business Growth Service” badge, these services had been held up as flagships of government support for small business, but are now ditched at a day’s notice without any apparent concern for companies who are in the process of engaging, let alone the staff and finances of the companies who have been delivering the service. In a staggering display of arrogance and absence of any ethical notice period, providers have been instructed to stop taking on more companies. That’s the last thing any of us expected from a Conservative government. I guess and hope that the local impact will be recognised by Local Enterprise Partnerships, and maybe they can fund something similar. How ironic that this job creation initiative will cost hundreds of redundancies across the country. Don’t forget to deduct that from the job creation totals this scheme has already claimed!