The region’s business leaders give their views on what they would like to see in next week’s Autumn Statement
John Bryce, managing director of Birmingham-based commercial property specialist KWB: “I would urge George Osborne to take decisive action to help the commercial property sector. Currently the rates-free period stands at three months, which is very painful given the void periods being encountered before finding new tenants, and the substantial rent-free periods that persist today.
“For example, for five-year leases agents are expecting rent-free periods to be between 12 and 24 months. Increasing the rates-free term to 12 months would massively improve the occupiers’ cash-flow position.”
Brendan McGeever, corporate partner at law firm Gateley and chairman of the Midlands Region Committee for the Institute of Turnaround (IFT): “The Institute for Turnaround would like to see a number of initiatives addressed including tax incentives for small businesses planning to recruit staff to train and re-skill.
“An extension to government-backed loan guarantee schemes to help kick-start this key area of our regional economy would also help greatly. We welcome the boost from the round of Regional Growth Funding, but it’s essential that inertia doesn’t set in and that these funds are disbursed quickly.”
Paul Wakefield, Corporate partner at Irwin Mitchell: “This November the Chancellor must feel like holding his head in his hands; I mean, where do you begin? On the domestic front it is difficult to conceive of where he might indicate further squeezing of individuals’ wallets and would I think be well advised to lay off with tax or duty increases affecting households.
“On the international front it will be interesting to see what he has to say about the ever circling financial transaction tax which is being widely and openly promoted in European quarters and looks set to lead to something of a showdown with Mrs Merkel and her Euro friends.”
Simon Jonsson, head of tax for KPMG in the Midlands: "With difficult economic conditions both at home and abroad there are high expectations on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. There have been calls from business groups for the extension of NIC holidays for new businesses, the temporary re-introduction of 100 per cent first year allowances, removing the 50 per cent tax rate, and cuts to corporation tax beyond the announced 23 per cent rate.”
Alison Monteith, managing director of Jewellery Quarter-based commercial interior designers Monteith Scott: “My own view is very much that what they have done is say that they would stop construction of big projects but they haven’t understood that the knock-on effect inflicts serious damage all along the supply chain.
"We will lose all the skills as businesses go bust and people are made redundant. As the market picks up these skills won’t be there. There are no breaks for small businesses. They talk about it but there aren’t any. There is no incentive to employ people.”
Phil Roberts, managing director of Staffordshire-based fleet vehicle specialists Flexible Vehicle Contracts: “A reduction in the current VAT rate could give the economy the kick-start it so desperately needs. The Government made the wrong choice to increase VAT rather than National Insurance.
"Simply put, if I am a business owner employing staff that means I’m happy with the state of my business. It is effectively a tax on me employing staff and we need staff when we are doing well.”
Jon Bellfield, managing director of Worcestershire-based Barberry Developments: “Action needs to be taken urgently to reinstate tax relief on empty properties. The current legislation is holding back construction while inflicting serious damage on investors’ pension funds and companies unfortunate enough to have empty buildings.
"Most companies vacating buildings that they still have leases on are doing so probably because they are not in great shape due to the economic turbulence – so it can be seen as a tax on struggling businesses.”
Tim Andrews, managing director of Birmingham-based signs and graphics specialists Hollywood Monster: “We’ve had to work incredibly hard during the downturn. We’ve invested heavily in new technology and as a result we have managed to win new business.
“We’ve also been able to increase our workforce by 40 per cent, creating much-needed jobs. However, two sectors that we operate in have been hit very hard and I would urge the Government to do all it can to support the retail sector and try to kick-start construction projects. Both are vital to the economy and a huge number of suppliers, like us, rely heavily on these sectors.”
Ian O’Donnell, Warwickshire & Coventry chairman, Federation of Small Businesses: “The Autumn Statement must bring in measures to address the longer-term structural issues which are holding back enterprise and job creation. For small businesses to welcome the statement, they need to see clear evidence that policies already announced are having an effect on the ground. Too often, the impression is that good intentions are not translated into tangible benefits for businesses.
“The FSB has put forward proposals for a NICs holiday for firms hiring young workers. Not only will this help to stop young people becoming detached from the labour market, but would also target tax incentives at the firms that need them most.”
Nigel Wood, senior partner at Birmingham law firm The Wilkes Partnership: “I believe the Government should introduce a three month VAT holiday from December 1 this year. If VAT was reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent for a short time it would stimulate spending across many areas of the economy, such as retail, professional services, and business costs.
"This would not just stimulate the Christmas period but also the lean times in January and February. The VAT cut would also impact favourably on businesses as fuel costs would reduce, significantly reducing the cost of haulage. This could be the kick the economy needs.”
Martin Guest, managing director of CBRE: “The UK Government introduced Business Premises Renovation Allowance (BPRA) in disadvantaged areas in the UK to attract private sector investment for the regeneration and renovation of vacant buildings. However, HMRC is currently consulting on the limitation of sideways loss relief, which could have the unintentional consequence of limiting the scope of BPRA so that such schemes will not happen.
“I hope that there will be an announcement in The Chancellor’s statement that BPRA will be excluded from any such legislation.”
Rory Daly, joint managing director of property agents CPBigwood: “The Government must do two things if the property sector is to maintain its recovery – keep interest rates low and encourage the banks to lend more. Some banks have been more active.
"We need that maintained and hopefully improved. Nobody wants the banks to go back to lending irresponsibly but we do need them to relax their criteria. The banks say they are lending but too many have in fact little intention of doing so and are merely paying lip service to Government entreaties. Overall this year has been better than the previous two – there are positive signs to build on.”
John Moffat, director at city development Hive: “In light of the Bank of England’s recent downward revision of its growth forecasts, and the implications on the Government’s target to eradicate the structural deficit, I expect the Autumn Statement to be focused on initiatives to rectify ailing output growth. In particular, I anticipate that the manufacturing sector, SMEs and the housing market will all receive assistance.”
David Smeeton, head of the Birmingham office of property consultants Colliers International: “Mainstream corporate tax rates are already set to reduce through to 2014, but a cut to the small companies rate would be a positive step towards driving both the economy forward and helping the property industry.
“With less regulation for small companies, welfare reform, improvements to the planning system and lower taxes for entrepreneurs, the system would swing positively towards smaller businesses.”
Johnathan Dudley, Midlands managing partner of national audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill: “I believe the most critical element holding back industry continues to be lack of funding.
“That is why I suggest a Government-sponsored credit worthiness guarantee regime introduced to help domestic producers. It is very hard for firms to get overdrafts as banks re-build their reserves. Companies are forced down the invoice discount route where funding is restricted by credit limits allocated to customers.
“So you have a scenario where a business has orders at the right price to make them a profit but struggles to fund the work.”
Ashley Hollinshead, tax partner at Deloitte in Birmingham: “Entrepreneurs will feature heavily in the Chancellor’s statement as the engine for the UK’s recovery. It’s clear we’ll hear something on apprenticeships, building on the £250 million fund announced last week for businesses to fund their own apprenticeship schemes, and a significant credit easing programme to get money through to SMEs.
“On the back of the £400 million fund announced to boost house-building, I’d also expect to see a reinvigorated shared ownership scheme to mitigate the debt risk for developers and boost speculative development – tapping into the multiplier effect of the construction sector.”
Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Birmingham Science Park Aston: “The Chancellor must also provide clarity to the private and public sector alike regarding the new initiatives that are being introduced by the Coalition Government to lessen the pain felt from the withdrawal of previous funding streams.
“Business Coaching for Growth needs to come on stream and provide national - and importantly local - support to SMEs, and in particular those with real growth potential.”
Steven Holden – tax and trust manager at Midland law firm MFG Solicitors: “The Chancellor must address some vital tax issues in his statement. Firstly, we need to boost consumer spending across the region.
“This means a reduction in VAT which would greatly help accelerate the consumer market. I’d also like to see him to be clear once and for all what the Government’s plans are for the 50 per tax rate and when it will finally be abolished.”
Chris Romans, partner and private business expert at PwC in the Midlands: “Midlands businesses still view a lack of access to credit as a major barrier to their growth plans.
“Any announcements about the Chancellor’s proposed credit-easing scheme to buy bonds from small businesses would be especially welcome.”
Stephen Hollowood, senior director at GVA Birmingham: “Funding new infrastructure projects will be fundamental to strengthening the UK economy. More detail is urgently required to support the principle of pension funds being able to provide the finance for infrastructure projects, which would lessen the upfront burden to the tax payer. ‘Infrastructure UK’ was confirmed in the 2010 Budget to lead work within HM Treasury to enable greater private sector investment in infrastructure, but no more detail has yet materialised.
“Meanwhile, ‘UK plc’ is desperately trying to find innovative ways in which major construction projects of this type can be funded.”