Autumn Statement 2016: Here's how business groups have reacted to today's announcement

 
Francesca Washtell
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Business groups were watching the Autumn Statement with bated breath today (Source: Getty)

Today's Autumn Statement may be the last after chancellor Philip Hammond announced he would scrap the annual November mini-Budget, but there's still an awful lot for the business world to sink its teeth into this time around.

Here's how some of the UK's biggest business groups have reacted to today's announcements, which include big infrastructure pledges, a fuel duty freeze, corporation tax to fall to 17 per cent and a new investment bond.

Pragmatism reigns – CBI

Conferderation of British Industry director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said:

The chancellor has prioritised a pragmatic down payment on future productivity growth. His emphasis on R&D, housing and local infrastructure will help businesses in all corners of the UK to invest with greater confidence for the long-term, during turbulent times. This will be warmly welcomed.

These measures must now be translated into action. That means tarmac, tracks and telecoms being laid, and clear, deliverable timetables for major projects – only then will they act as a catalyst for investment, jobs and growth.

A "responsible" and "solid" package – BCC

Director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, said:

Philip Hammond has delivered a responsible, solid and focused package that will reassure both business and markets. Increased resources for local and regional transport infrastructure, broadband, housing and innovation will boost business confidence at a critical moment. The chancellor's strong focus on the growth requirements of our cities, regions and nations will not go unnoticed in business communities across the UK.

While business communities would have liked Philip Hammond to go even further to support growth, they will recognise that his hands are somewhat tied by lower tax receipts and sharply higher borrowing forecasts.

Six out of 10 for fuel duty and housebuilding – Forum of Private Business

"The Forum of Private Business has given the Chancellor six out of 10 for his first Autumn Statement, disappointed that he has not gone further to support small businesses in the post Brexit era," the group said today.

Chief executive Ian Cass said:

The freeze on fuel duty is welcome for all those businesses involved in transport, and the initiatives to support house builders will be good for those businesses in the construction sector, and its supply chain, but there is not much good news for our high street businesses, and importing manufacturers who are suffering at the hands of the weak pound, and who have no real indication of what a post Brexit UK will look like

Not just infrastructure for productivity – Chartered Management Institute

Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, said:

Productivity is key to the UK’s success, and it’s clear the chancellor recognises that with the commitment to a National Productivity Investment Fund. But innovation and infrastructure are not the only issues to consider. Poor management costs our economy £84bn each year according to recent research from Investors in People, and the OECD claims it’s the key cause of the UK’s 21 per cent productivity gap with G7 competitors.

Modest but targeted measures on private spending and productivity –British Retail Consortium (BRC)

Chief executive Helen Dickinson said:

Today’s modest but targeted measures by the Chancellor to boost productivity are to be applauded. The new National Productivity Investment Fund has the potential to make a real difference. So too do the plans to improve the UK’s connectivity, with funding for digital infrastructure benefiting the entire UK. Retailers and other businesses on the high street will benefit from further investment to improve local transport networks. Taken together these measures should support the retail industry as it seeks to improve its own productivity.

Some changes will provide a bit more room to breathe for cash strapped consumers on low and middle incomes. Today’s forecasts show that over the period to 2020 there will be £34bn less in private spending in the UK economy that the OBR predicted in March, while the medium term outlook is challenging for the industry.

"Reassuringly boring" and a missed opportunity – The Adam Smith Institute

Executive director Sam Bowman said:

Philip Hammond should be congratulated for delivering a dull, quiet Autumn Statement that was largely free of gimmicks, but it was a missed opportunity for pro-growth tax cuts that could have strengthened the British economy.

Though we're pleased this didn't have quite as many giveaways and gimmicks as the average Osborne Budget, the chancellor could have cut the taxes that hold back growth the most to boost economic growth. Stamp duty is a terrible tax that gums up the housing market and stops people from moving into better jobs; our corporation tax rate is still too high; and capital gains tax deters investment. By not touching these anti-growth taxes, the chancellor has not done enough to buoy the economy after Brexit.

"Under-delivered for businesses and Jams" – Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

Chas Roy-Chouwdhury, head of tax at the ACCA, said:

This Autumn Statement would have been an ideal time for the Chancellor to consider a further corporation tax cut to 15 per cent.

While the tax cuts aimed at alleviating the fiscal pressures of “JAMs” will be welcomed in the long term, there could have been more immediate solutions instead—a VAT cut or the immediate (2017) implementation of the £12,500 threshold, for example.

And in the short term, JAMs will see a negative impact first, being hit by the raise in tax on insurance premiums—from 10 per cent to 12 per cent—from next June.