Autumn Statement 2013: Entrepreneurs and business builders react to George Osborne’s announcements

In the aftermath of the coalition government's fourth Autumn Statement address, we ask business leaders what they make of George Osborne's plans.

With announcements including a cull to national insurance costs for under 21s, more cash for the business bank and a business rate cap, did the Autumn Statement provide the drivers of growth in the UK what they wanted?

We speak with entrepreneurs and business owners to discover what they liked and what they didn’t.

Howard Sears, director at Astuta, says:

‘Clearly we have to welcome the fact that an extra 50,000 entrepreneurs are set to benefit from start-up loans. The strength of tomorrow’s economy is based on the support we give to today’s small start-ups.

‘But ultimately this is a drop in the ocean, a symbolic move rather than a substantial shift in favour of the UK’s smallest companies.

‘What really needs to be addressed is the problem most smaller companies have securing finance. The refocus of the Funding for Lending Scheme towards SMEs will be the real litmus test.’

Louise Beaumont, co-founder of Platform Black, says:

‘George Osborne now understands that the UK’ SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy. Just as Scrooge saw the error of his ways, so the chancellor is trying to help SMEs, the Tiny Tim of the UK.  

‘We welcome his gifts of a cap on the inflation increase in business rates and helping those SMEs who have struggled hard on the high streets as he announces a new reoccupation relief, but the fundamental issue remains that SMEs are quite simply not getting enough access to finance.  

‘Lending to SMEs shrank by £505 million in October. This is the fourth consecutive monthly decrease in lending to SMEs. Listen to any SME owner that is looking to grow their business and they will tell you that this is the key concern for the UK’s SMEs.’

Michelle Wright, CEO of Cause4, says:

‘Reducing the cost of employing young people will free up vital funds and resources that small businesses in particular can invest into staff training and development. 

‘This type of financial support will be a lifeline for SMEs wanting to support their staff, and will enable them to offer a working environment to match that of their larger counterparts. This will ultimately help to attract top talent and push SMEs to the forefront of economic growth in the UK.’

More on the Autumn Statement 2013:

Peter Grant, CEO of CloudApps, says:

‘Cuts to corporation tax will certainly give businesses more licence to focus on growth and increasing productivity but this is by no means the be all and end all. As George Osborne recognised, private business has been the driving force behind the improving UK economy, creating three jobs for every one lost in the public sector. This recovery is due to significantly more than cutting corporation tax.

‘Private businesses are increasingly driving innovation within their own workforces, encouraging and enabling individuals to excel. This does not come from a tax break. This comes from changing management structures to get the best out of the individuals that we employ. A continued commitment to the development of each and every member of the workforce is crucial in getting their buy-in to drive improvements in productivity and propel the UK economy.’

Adam Sharp, managing director at CleverTouch, says:

‘Growth is up, great for confidence, but the real growth is less due to the fact quantitative easing is still ongoing.

‘I’m glad to hear about the start-up loans for SMBs, about time, but in the past, despite government and banks claims, the reality is it never happened. 

‘Social enterprise tax relief also sounds like good news but we need to see the detail of this.’

Daniel Rajkumar, Managing Director of, says:

‘UK business owners will welcome intervention on their energy bills and the freeze on petrol prices which underlines the focus not only on the impact of macro effects on the SME sector but on their day-to-day activities as well.

‘The government clearly recognises the role that SMEs play in the economic recovery by helping these ambitious businesses to grow and keeping their money in the real economy.’

Matthew Wood, founder of vouchercloud, says:

‘The cap on business rates announced in the Autumn Statement should be hugely beneficial for the high street. We work with independent retailers from across the country to help encourage commerce by offering discounts to shoppers via our money saving mobile app. British market towns have seen the high street decline as small businesses struggle to balance the costs of business rates against a drop in revenue from consumers with less disposable income. 

‘It should be a welcome break for them, whilst the halving of rates to reoccupy vacant town centre shops should help to encourage local entrepreneurs to see the opportunity that the high street has to offer. Although austerity continues, so does economic growth. Let’s hope this translates to the high street.’

Gavin Dein, founder and CEO of Reward, says:

‘George Osborne made a sound move in today’s budget by laying down that Labour’s proposed increases in Capital Gains Tax will not be adopted. An increase on this front would have come as a serious blow to Britain’s large number of budding business leaders who are working hard to grow in an economy that, at best, would be described as demanding. 

‘Furthermore, I’m happy to hear that the Start Up Loans scheme will be expanded. Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit will be what drives this country forward into strong recovery recession. This statement is a tip of the chancellor’s hat to the innovative business leaders taking daily risks that will make this a reality. 

Neil Addley, managing director of Trusted Dealers, says:

‘As expected, the statement hasn’t told us anything we didn’t already know. Osborne has kept to his earlier promise of freezing fuel duty until 2015, which goes some way towards supporting motorists, but does not tackle the vastly inflated prices we are forced to pay at the pump in order to keep our vehicles on the road.’

Ed Reeves, co-founder of Moneypenny and Penelope, says: 

‘The overall gain is a positive one. Anything that assists SMEs and the high street to do more and better business is welcome and overdue.

‘But, are these changes big and bold enough to make the sort of difference that the 20 per cent corporation tax has done? Certainly not. They go nowhere near far enough. A missed opportunity.’

Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube, says:

‘The crucial transition from the start-up to high growth phase of business is where the availability of funding matters more, but also where it is most scarce. 

‘The government’s initiatives to support equity investments have been pitiful in comparison to its support for debt, which the chancellor looks set to announce will qualify for ISA tax relief.  This needs to change. While support for peer-to-peer lenders is laudable it is frustrating that the government continues to focus on debt, which is often unsuitable for start-up and early stage businesses.  

‘Our message for the government is you’ve done enough with debt finance, now let’s focus on what small businesses really need. Creating a co-investment fund for Britain’s burgeoning equity crowdfunding industry would be a great place to start.’

Chris Griesbach, commercial director at Probrand, says:

‘With many of the key issues either pre-briefed or leaked, there were no big surprises when George Osborne came to deliver his report earlier today. 

‘While economic growth dominated the discussion, it was encouraging to see apprenticeships on the agenda as it was announced that there will be 20,000 more higher education apprenticeships over the next two years. 

‘If we are to help bridge the gap between education and the workplace, then this is a much-needed move that is particularly important in the technology sector, providing young people with both the skills and opportunity necessary to succeed.’

John Hoskin, director at, says:

‘A very political and fiscally neutral Autumn Statement, for both business and consumers.

‘This statement was clearly about shoring up and playing it safe, not announcing anything ground-breaking or extreme.

‘The chancellor focused a lot on the improvement of the economy and, to an extent, is right not to rock the boat with any drastic measures and ‘giveaways’.

‘20,000 additional apprenticeships and loans for another 50,000 start-ups are welcome but what’s really needed is for the government to get the banks lending in earnest to small business. This is what the changes to the Funding for Lending Scheme are all about.’

Jamie Turner, CTO of Postcode Anywhere, says:

‘There was plenty to be celebrated for businesses in the budget including the commitment to investing in housing developments in key regional hubs outside of London such as Manchester and Leeds. 

‘This commitment should not only help boost the economic prospects of the regions but also fuel the booming tech industry outside of London. 

‘Investment in infrastructure was understandably a cornerstone of the chancellor’s speech but I would have liked to have seen a little more on tech infrastructure and particularly 4G connectivity outside of London.’

Peter Randall, CEO of Ecovision, says:

‘The Autumn Statement was positive and keeps the economy moving more strongly in the right direction. Importantly there were few, if any, gimmicks and no items set to derail the current upward economic trends. We were pleased that there was no mention of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) following on from Ed Davey’s positive statement yesterday which confirmed the introduction of the Domestic RHI in the “spring” as well as the new supportive RHI rates for January.

‘George Osborne confirmed that the economy is improving and that it is in safe hands, the bluster from the other side confirmed the view that, at the moment, we have the right people in government.’

Paul Laidler, managing director at Solar Angel, says: 

‘It seems that the coalition have reached a “carbon neutral” deal that has enabled them to strip some of the green levies from utility bills. 

‘Social housing will be one of the biggest losers from the cut to the Energy Company Obligation as traditionally, a huge proportion of energy supplier funding is spent in the social housing sector – and this sector won’t be eligible for any of the new taxpayer-funded green schemes the government has announced.

‘The chancellor’s ongoing commitment to nuclear and the big tax breaks for fracking don’t support the government’s aspiration to be the greenest government ever.

‘As someone committed to a greener future, of course I would like to see more money being invested in cleantech products so that controlling our energy bills and delivering energy security for both domestic and business markets becomes increasingly viable. However, what we need at the very least is for the government to commit to some stability in relation to “green” products and schemes so that investors have the confidence required to move the industry forward.’

Doug Richard, founder of School for Startups, says:

‘We are delighted that in today’s Autumn Statement the government has announced a big expansion to the Start Up Loans scheme with a significant increase in available funding. 

‘The government has had a historically biased focus on youth and whilst clearly critical to our economic recovery, it’s led to a neglect of other, equally as important segments. We have highly skilled and experienced workforces who, have as a result of difficult economic times, been left high and dry with no clear direction orsupport. It makes sense to be fully inclusive across all stripes of society when encouraging enterprise as an option.’

Alex Letts, founder and CEO of Ffrees Family Finance says:

‘The chancellor announced that the best way to help business is by lowering the burden of tax. While I agree with this to some extent, I would have liked to see more in the Autumn Statement to encourage the investment in start-ups. The expansion of the Start Up Loans scheme is a welcome move, but I also think Osborne should have removed the restriction on EIS relief that currently excludes the founder-directors from participating in tax relief.’

Darron Antill, CEO of Intrinsic Technology, says:

‘With every Budget statement we hear commitments made to small businesses and enterprises, yet the chancellor should give mid-market business the limelight and support they deserve. 

‘Despite the downturn, these businesses continue to create jobs and wealth. Training and skills development are absolutely crucial to helping these businesses realise their ambitious growth plans and break into the enterprise sector, so the chancellor’s pledge to create new apprenticeship schemes is encouraging. However, it would also be useful to see Osbourne giving mid-market employers more control over the design and funding of apprenticeships to ensure they are tailored to their business needs.’

Tony Goodwin, chairman and founder of Antal International, says:

‘I agree with George Osborne’s suggestion that as a country we need to export more, as I’ve long been of the opinion that the UK needs to be globally aware. Nowadays you don’t have to be a BMW or a Glaxo to be a global trader, an organisation with ten people and the internet can be a truly international business today. 

‘Overall, it’s encouraging to see the government and business heads being so positive but we need to wait to see whether this exuberance filters down to the man in the street before we really start getting optimistic. The government needs to keep striving to effect changes that will make a difference to everyday life. For example, putting pressure on the energy companies to reduce their charges was a good first step, but this needs to continue.’

Mark Stringer, managing director at AHOY, says:

‘As the MD of an agency that straddles creative and tech I was really pleased when looking through the headlines 2013 Autumn Statement however upon further reading the the majority of this seems focused towards TV and film industries. Not what I wanted to read.

‘For directors of a limited company the news of personal income tax allowance rising to £10,000 from April 2014 was great news. It’s these entrepreneurs that are helping the economy grow after all – that along with business rates capped at 2 per cent and some retail premises to get a discount. Plus businesses moving into vacant properties will have their rates cut by 50% this has to be some small win for the high street.’

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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