Business banks on Sunak to deliver

Business leaders appear to be putting their faith in Chancellor Rishi Sunak and approve of his economic support so far.

In a poll of 500 executives ahead of Wednesday’s Budget, six in ten said they approved of the government economic support measures, compared with just 18 per cent who disapprove. And 36 per cent think that the level of support given has been about right, compared to 24 per cent who think it has been too generous, and 27 per cent who think it hasn’t gone far enough.

However, the genuine impact businesses have felt from this support is less impressive. While 43 per cent say the support helped them manage during the last year, over half (57 per cent) of those running SMEs think it hasn’t helped.

In comparison, 51 per cent of leaders of larger businesses (above 250 employees) think it has, suggesting that the policies have helped larger businesses more than SMEs.

Businesses outside London are also more likely to think Government support hasn’t helped them. Over half of businesses in London and the Midlands think Government support has helped them manage, while only 39 per cent of Northern businesses agree.

half said they would like a fixed date for when financial support comes to an end to help them prepare

When asked about their biggest priorities for the budget, 29 per cent told researchers for the survey by reputation management consultancy Lansons and strategic insight agency Opinium  they want an extension of the job retention scheme.

One of the biggest fears among the business community is that this support will be removed too quickly and half said they would like a fixed date for when financial support comes to an end to help them prepare, rising to two thirds of those in large businesses.

smaller businesses have felt particularly exposed during the pandemic and are far more likely to be pessimistic about their current situation and for the future

Interestingly, nearly half think that Sunak and Boris Johnson are best placed to run the economy, compared with just 29 per cent who trust Sir Keir Starmer and Anneliese Dodds.

More than two fifths think that economic growth should be the chancellor’s priority on Wednesday. A quarter think supporting businesses should be the focus, and 23% think the Chancellor should prioritise keeping unemployment down.

James Dowling, Board Director responsible for Public Affairs and former Treasury Official: “This polling starkly exposes the difference in the way larger and smaller businesses have weathered the pandemic so far.

“Larger businesses are reasonably optimistic about the future prospects for their business and the economy at large; on the other hand, smaller businesses clearly have felt particularly exposed during the pandemic and are far more likely to be pessimistic about their current situation and for the future.

“This clearly informs views of the support businesses have received from Government, with SMEs far more likely both to say that they have seen little benefit from COVID support and to want the security that they will have access to that support until the pandemic has fully receded.

“Despite this, strikingly, the Government is way ahead of Labour on who businesses trust to handle the economy.”

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