Has Rishi helped under-pressure businesses?

As chancellor Rishi Sunak sat down after giving his Autumn Budget speech, a report was being issued highlighting the many challenges facing Lancashire businesses.

It revealed the number of corporate insolvencies seen across the North West rose by 24 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, as inflation and supply chain pressures began to bite, and government Covid-19 support measures began to unwind.

With inflation forecast to rise to four per cent over the next year, the rocky ride many SMEs find themselves on is set to continue.

Business owners will be asking if the chancellor’s Budget will do anything to ease the pressures they are under.

Some measures will, in the short term. The 50 per cent business rates discount for retail, hospitality and leisure is welcome, even though it is just for a year.

The scrapping of rises in alcohol duty were greeted with raised glasses by the pub trade, along with the plans to reform and simplify the tax.

However, while initial reaction was that this was a good budget for hospitality, celebrations were cut short by the increase in the national minimum wage, which will hit the same industry hard.

Scrapping a fuel duty rise is also helpful to SMEs, with prices at the pump at their highest level for eight years adding to the squeeze.

But there is no doubt the chancellor could have gone further. The Business Rates system is widely condemned as not being fit for purpose. Reform is needed.

The raise in the living wage is good news for workers, but for many small businesses it will increase the pressure being felt and coupled with the national insurance contributions hike, may even act as a disincentive to job creation.

Time will tell.

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