Dawn Whiteley MBE, Chief Executive at National Enterprise Network, publishes an open letter with her thoughts on the spring 2017 Budget

Like millions of people across the country, I was glued to the livedawn website broadcast of Philip Hammond’s spring 2017 budget statement today. No matter what age, position or background, today’s announcement affects everyone in the country on some level; including the small business community. This community of ambitious, passionate and driven people who are starting and building businesses to contribute to our country’s economy. A community that is supported by the network of National Enterprise Network members across England.

We heard today of Britain’s continuing economic growth; growth that small businesses are huge contributors to every year, not to mention the contribution they have made in terms of employment growth over recent years. A good reminder as to the value this key group has across the country and something that small business owners can be very proud of.

Along with other membership bodies and lobby groups, I have made numerous representations to HMRC over the last year with regard to Making Tax Digital for Business and the impact this would have on the very smallest businesses. I was therefore pleased to hear of the one year delay for those businesses under the VAT threshold. But – and it’s a big but - a year isn’t long. What remains to be seen is if this 365 days is enough time to prepare the millions of self-employed people and small businesses who fall into this bracket.

Renewed investment in education and skills gets a big thumbs up from me too – we need to give our young people every opportunity to succeed and prosper. What we’re not yet seeing commitment to though, is an enterprise element in vocational training. If the Government is serious about investing in the young generation with vocational training, they need to consider that students will transfer those skills into businesses and sometimes into self-employment. The current training framework doesn’t appear to give recognition to that possibility. Short-sighted? I think so…..

The business rates revaluation is a current cause of concern for many small businesses and an area that could put huge pressure on the businesses our network work with. Seeing measures announced today to support those hardest hit and to alleviate the impact of the increases is good – but for the majority of self-employed and small businesses, is this a case of giving with one hand whilst taking away with another?

An increase in NIC’s for the self-employed will be seen by some as a levelling of the playing field, but for those hard-working people who take many risks, sometimes with little reward and who don’t get the same level of benefits as the employed that will be cold comfort. It’s evident that the Chancellor is attempting to move the self-employed closer to the framework seen for those who are employed…but they don’t get the same benefits and we’d hope to see a step change on this, firstly with the review of parental benefits pledged for this summer, followed by a look at how universal credit disadvantages the self-employed.

The reduction in the dividend cap will similarly hit many small businesses and is unlikely to be welcome news. Self-employed individuals and small business owners have created millions of jobs across the country, not just for themselves, but to others too. Is there a risk of a slowdown now? I seriously hope not, but I really don’t think we can rule it out.

And so I draw my personal letter to an end – and as it happens, in a similar vein to the conclusion presented from our Chancellor earlier on today. Phillip Hammond told us he’s confident in our country’s strengths and is clear in our determination. How apt that the descriptions Philip Hammond chose to use in the spring 2017 closing statement are key attributes of those that take the steps to start their own business. Small businesses that hugely contribute to this country’s economy. We know small businesses are strong, we know they are determined; as is our network, a network of enterprise centric organisations that will wholeheartedly advise their pre start, start up and growing small business clients in the months and years ahead.

Let’s just hope he hasn’t killed the golden goose…

Dawn Whiteley, MBE | Chief Executive, National Enterprise Network

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About National Enterprise Network

National Enterprise Network’s Mission is to represent, unite and support all organisations who are passionate about inspiring and encouraging enterprise. We support our membership by: Representing their interests to government and others in the public and private sector, showcasing a unique national network of credible, quality assured enterprise support organisations. Promoting the successes they achieve and demonstrating the value they add to local communities and the wider economy. Connecting them to people and projects inside and outside the Network, to share valuable knowledge, skills and opportunities for even greater success.

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