Jeremy Hunt is being urged to make next month’s autumn statement a “small business moment” by extending business rates relief, getting the long-term sick back to work and reforming the planning system.
The chancellor will deliver his key economic announcement a month today against a backdrop of high inflation and shortages of workers after the pandemic, which businesses fear could impede their opportunities to grow.
In the Federation of Small Businesses’ submission to Hunt, chairman Martin McTague has urged him to exert pressure on big companies to pay smaller suppliers on time, calling late payments “pernicious” for his members.
He also called for an extension on the 75 per cent discount on business rates for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. The reduction, which was aimed at helping businesses hit by the pandemic, is due to come to an end in March. The FSB also urged him to end the “simple flaw” in the tax system that prevents the self-employed deducting training costs from their tax bills.
The British Chambers of Commerce, meanwhile, has called on Hunt to focus on the tight labour market at a time of 1 million job vacancies.
The BCC also suggested he could help firms reduce sickness rates by making occupational health services no longer a taxable benefit.
Shevaun Haviland, the BCC’s director general, called for reforms to the planning system to boost spending, including giving more training to local government planning departments to speed up decision-making, and urged planning decisions related to upgrading the National Grid to be expedited to help businesses developing green, electricity-powered technology.
“Businesses have told us they have billions of pounds in private investment waiting to be pumped into the UK economy but our creaking planning system and overloaded grid are holding that back,” Haviland said.
The FSB is also calling for smaller firms to be exempt from paying VAT. Currently, enterprises with turnovers of less than £85,000 do not have to pay the tax, but the FSB wants that threshold raised to £100,000.
The BCC submission calls for reforms to the so-called “tourist tax” to encourage foreign tourists to spend more in the UK. The old VAT-free system was scrapped by the government in 2021.