The Budget was eagerly awaited after an unprecedented year of uncertainty. The Chancellor pledged to “do whatever it takes” to fix an economy ravaged by the pandemic.
Experts in all sectors give their views:
Pranav Sood, VP of Small Business at GoCardless, said: “Covid-19 and Brexit have created a tough environment for small businesses, so the Government’s Help to Grow scheme couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The widespread adoption of technology will fuel the next wave of growth in this sector and unlock significant gains in productivity. However, there are two major obstacles to achieving this. One is a lack of awareness of the tools and software available to help SMEs. The other is the sense of apprehension many businesses feel when it comes to integrating new technology into their day-to-day operations. The type of training proposed in the Government’s scheme should help to overcome these hurdles.”
Liron Smadja, Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing & International Expansion at Fiverr, said: “The Chancellor’s budget has outlined a new wave of £7,500 grants for the self-employed. Whilst it is positive that this important sector of the economy has been specifically acknowledged, the possibility that the scheme could end by September is concerning.
“Over the coming year, we’ll likely see continued restrictions on the economy and businesses. It is crucial that the Government ensures there is proportionate support for this country’s freelancers and self-employed. Throughout the pandemic and lockdown, many freelancers have slipped through the net and been unable to access support. The government has a responsibility to ensure that all people who have been forced out of work due to the lockdown are afforded the funds they need to get on with their lives.
“Our hope is that the government has taken these actions with a long-term focus on the challenges that freelancers and the self-employed face.”
Accounting for around half of the economy, SMEs can make a substantial contribution from levelling-up to NetZero and job creation
Oliver Prill, Tide CEO said: “We welcome the fact that today’s was a budget for SMEs and that Government support now goes beyond COVID restrictions ending in June.
“However, we are concerned that September will be too soon to withdraw crucial financial support. With one in five small businesses expecting to make redundancies once the furlough scheme ends there will be huge pressure for small businesses to return to pre-Covid revenue levels in just a matter of months. Pulling the furlough scheme and all other financial support from under small businesses’ feet so soon may pose a real danger.
“We would urge the government to put SMEs at the heart of its building back better agenda. Accounting for around half of the economy, SMEs can make a substantial contribution from levelling up to NetZero and job creation.”
Darren Upson, VP Small Business Europe at Soldo, said the extension of the furlough scheme was a “welcomed relief, having served as a means of allowing SMBs to continue to grow over the last year”.
He added: “While its continuation will help business expansion, this will need to be supplemented with leaders having better visibility of what is happening in their organisations – especially on the money leaving – if they are to manage the continued challenges ahead.
“We also have the furlough scheme to thank for keeping unemployment in check. While it is worrying to see unemployment on the rise, we are certainly not seeing a realisation of the nightmare scenario one might expect from the dramatic government interventions.
“This scheme has allowed many small businesses to go into a necessary hibernation, ready to return when the economy reopens. We hope that its extension will mean we can avoid a sudden surge in unemployment once it is eventually wound down. This would almost certainly have been the case without this extension.”
Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, said of the ‘help to grow’ training for SME managers:
Jamie Mckenzie, Director at Sodexo Exchange, said: “Offering MBA-style training to small business leaders is positive news for many in this hard-hit sector. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and this year has seen them confront unremitting challenges.
“Giving SME leaders access to training tools and resources is great, but the government mustn’t overlook the implications the pandemic has had on the mental health of SME leaders. The impact of the last year will be longer lasting with many having to furlough workers and make difficult decisions around redundancies.
“The end of Lockdown roadmap has provided a glimmer of hope, but we are not out of the woods yet. Prioritising mental health and providing support for business leaders will be crucial.”
Iggy Bassi, CEO and Co-Founder, Cervest said: “The creation of a government-backed green savings bond for retail investors is welcome news as the UK faces mounting pressure to meet its ambitious 2050 net-zero targets.
“Yet, in addition to these headlines around green investment, there is still a real need to support companies to address their existing footprints—including how they assess and manage their physical climate risks. While provisions are being made to help companies meet the standards of climate risk reporting, outlined in the Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) framework, what we really need is a single regulatory framework for physical climate risk as a standardised template.
“Organisations need to understand the risks climate volatility present to their assets on an individual level. Greater investment in green finance is positive, but we cannot make tangible change without progressive regulation and access to Climate Intelligence.”
Neil Johnson, CEO of Duke Royalty, said: “As a Company dedicated to supporting small and medium-sized businesses, we are pleased to see the UK Government continue its measures to support SMEs as we navigate our way out of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, we must remember this is a short-term solution. We are talking tosmall business owners every day, and they tell us they will be dealing with the pandemic’s effects for years to come. This means that now, more than ever, SMEs need a long-term, alternative finance solution that goes beyond the current government relief packages.”