Some welcome investment focus but others say chancellor “missed a trick” by not offering more support for enterprise and SMEs
The small business and investment community has given a mixed reaction to chancellor George Osborne’s final pre-election budget.
There were largely positive noises coming from the venture capital community, with the pledge for continued support for the enterprise investment scheme (EIS) winning particular praise.
MMC Ventures managing partner Bruce Macfarlane welcomed the government’s “continued backing for UK enterprise and investment”.
“The Government clearly believes that EIS and VCTs are working as they are also applying that model in the social investing space. With an election coming up fast, this Budget seems to me to have been a sensible one,” he said.
His views were echoed by Octopus Investment VC partners manager George Whitehead, who said the budget “makes clear the Government’s support for an entrepreneurial Britain”.
“Enterprise and fast growing business in the UK are critical to our economic prosperity creating new jobs and revenues to support economic growth,” he said.
“It’s great to see further measures announced to sustain the very strong entrepreneurial environment that we have in this country and that we should be proud of. The UK is not just a leading global financial centre but it is a leading global hub of enterprise and it is important that success governments continue to invest to enable the UK to retain this position.”
There was also apparent support for the burgeoning sharing economy sector in the Budget, with Osborne seemingly looking to enable the fast-growing area to continue its meteoric rise.
Debbie Wosskow, founder and CEO of LoveHomeSwap and Chair of the newly formed Sharing Economy UK trade body, welcomed a number of measures announced. She was particularly positive in her response to plans to “make it easier to share rooms and parking spaces”.
“I am also impressed by the way in which government has embraced the sharing economy internally as well, updating the government procurement frameworks to include sharing economy platforms and also allowing government employees to use sharing economy solutions for accommodation and travelling,” she added.
“I also welcome today’s announcement that in 2015-2016 Leeds and Greater Manchester will be undertaking a ‘Sharing City’ pilot scheme, in which transport, shared office space, accommodation and skills are joined together and residents are encouraged to share.”
>See also: Strong regional investment focus in Budget
Startup Direct CEO James Pattison commented that tax simplification legislation, including the abolition of the annual paper tax return, would be “music to the ears” of small business owners. However, he was more critical of the government’s wider plans to support small business growth.
“It’s a shame the government didn’t go further to boost enterprise and support SMEs, which have been the driving force behind the economic recovery so far,” he said.
“A pledge to fund the creation of co-working spaces for start ups would have been a cost effective way of delivering real, practical help to people wanting to start or grow a business, in an inspiring, efficient and super-collaborative environment. The Chancellor has missed a trick which would have delivered maximum help to entrepreneurs with minimal government investment.”
Virgin Media managing director Peter Kelly also expressed surprise that digital skills were not mentioned in the chancellor’s speech.
“Investment in digital skills doesn’t just boost the IT sector, it gives Britain a competitive advantage over the rest of the world,” he said.
“Businesses have a role to play, but government support is essential. To use Osborne’s words, if we want to continue ‘walking tall’, we must commit to investing in digital skills, ensuring that the UK retains its digital advantage.”