2019 Spring Statement – the business reaction

Spring Statement

Business groups have responded to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement speech.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) welcomed the Chancellor’s commitment to tackling the late payments issue. Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said that the government must ‘tackle this scourge once and for all’.

He said: ‘The commitment from the Chancellor that the Business Secretary will see this through is welcome, and we are especially pleased that the first measure has been announced – to make a Non-Executive Director responsible for the supply chain through the Audit Committee of every large business, and to report back through the Annual Report on their progress.

‘The end of late payments could finally be in sight. It can’t come soon enough, to bolster small businesses at a time when they are in great need of support and a lift in confidence.’

The response from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), however, was decidedly lukewarm. Commenting on the speech, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the BCC, said: ‘The Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts for the Spring Statement indicate a more downbeat outlook for the UK economy, with GDP growth now projected to be lower in 2019 compared to their previous forecast.’

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) praised the Chancellor for making ‘an admirable attempt to set out a long-term vision for the UK economy’ while remaining ‘shackled’ by Brexit. However, it remains cautious about the UK’s plans to implement its so-called Digital Services Tax, especially as the EU has seemingly withdrawn its support of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development’s efforts.

Rain Newton-Smith, Chief Economist at the CBI, said: ‘Going it alone on a Digital Services Tax is high-risk, especially at a time when the UK already looks increasingly isolated.

‘The government needs to be doing all it can to encourage investment in the UK and adoption of new technologies, not putting up barriers.’