Our wise men look back at the budget

They gave their view ahead of the budget - now our wise men have set out their thoughts about the measures announced by chancellor George Osborne last week.

• Caroline Williams:

We are encouraged that the chancellor has prioritised business growth and private-sector expansion alongside deficit reduction.

There are some real pro-enterprise moves in this Budget. Reducing corporation tax rates by 2 per cent this year is a measure of real substance and we also welcome the government's desire to speed up tax simplification, and to remove the much-disliked 50p top rate of income tax. Smaller companies in Norfolk will take heart from the chancellor's moves to cut fuel duty, maintain business rate reliefs for an additional year, and to exempt businesses with fewer than ten employees from new regulations.

We are disappointed that a enterprise zone in Norfolk has not been identified but will lobby hard to be one of the next 10 identified. It is however good to see the Norwich Research Park recognised.


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We also welcome the government's decision to reward those who invest in new businesses, for example through the doubling of entrepreneurs' relief. Simplifying the planning system is long overdue as is shown by the high spend by our councils. However the relaxing of planning rules and easier planning permission could conflict with the governments localism agenda which aims to give more powers to local communities. As always the devil is in the detail'

Caroline Williams is CEO Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

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• John Woods:

In my comments before the Budget I said that small and medium sized businesses (SME's) have got used to not expecting much in the way of help from Government.

Which is fortunate because I can't see much in this Budget that will help them. There was the usual 'a Budget for Business' rhetoric. There were a few of the usual token initiatives and a few vague promises. There were things which help big business. What I couldn't find was anything that is really going to encourage the 4 million small and medium businesses out here, who employ over half the private sector workforce, to expand, take risks and take on more staff. That is what we need if we are to ever come out of the present economic predicament.

John Woods is executive chairman, Moneyfacts Group

• Richard Larner:

On the whole, while there are winners and losers – as ever – the effect for individuals is broadly positive. We welcome the increase in Personal Allowances and the long term objective of raising the individual threshold to �10,000. One item which catches the eye is the annual uplift in allowances and benefits. We believe that the change in inflation adjustment from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index will have substantial long term effects for individuals. Indeed, in the last ten years, there has been a difference of more than 8% between these two indices.

The increase in tax relief available on EIS to 30% and the moves to broaden some of the investment criteria within these schemes are to be applauded. This should act as further encouragement for investment directly into the economy by private individuals. As we predicted the Chancellor is eager to try to ensure that these reliefs are not used for businesses that do not involve real business risk.

Richard Larner is divisional director, Brewin Dolphin

• Peter Wilson:

The good news is that entrepreneurs and small businesses have been targeted for beneficial treatment.

That's where the growth will be – among the 90% of Norfolk businesses that employ fewer than eight people. So lower corporation tax, enhanced tax incentives for investment in higher risk companies, Enterprise Zones and the doubling of Entrepreneurs' Relief all mean a better and more stable environment for our country's creative talents in every field. It's not enough, though, to encourage businesses if people don't have money to buy their products. So we welcome the very slight relaxation of petrol and other tax regimes.

The bad news is yet to come. If the gradual drain away from employment becomes a torrent the odd penny off petrol will be irrelevant. This economic high wire act is going to last another four years. It's an unstable equilibrium, and we have no option but to hope it balances.

Peter Wilson is chief executive, Theatre Royal

• Bob Rose:

Most businesses will be thankful that the Chancellor's measures are revenue neutral. Employees, using their own cars for business, will welcome the increase in the tax free allowance. Longer term, the proposal to merge income tax and national insurance will be a major simplification and reduce the administrative burden for employers.

However, the Chancellor did not listen to my VAT suggestions! The rise in registration threshold might help a few small businesses, but watch for compulsory on-line registrations from August 2012, and universal on-line filing from April 2012. Fuel scale charges have also risen sharply which will be bad news for many. The measures relating to groups of companies and capital gains are very welcome and seem to be a genuine attempt to simplify what has been a hugely complicated area of taxation. Certain restrictions on claiming and using capital losses have been removed and this may benefit groups as well as a more enlightened approach on the taxation of gains when companies leave groups. It will be interesting to see how the changes will affect local businesses over the coming year.

Bob Rose is managing partner, Larking Gowen

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