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UK Budget: Reactions

A round-up of reactions to the UK government’s budget from various industry lobbies and other parties.
RICS’ head of UK government affairs, Christian Cubitt, said: “With the country finally able to begin looking beyond Covid-19 thanks to the vaccination programme, this budget delivers the incentives needed that will help build our way toward economic recovery.

“From getting thousands more young people onto the housing ladder to breaking ground on transformative projects backed by a new UK Infrastructure Bank, the billions invested represent a shot in the arm for the sector and the levelling up agenda.

“Extending the business rates holiday and discounting these costs for the rest of the year is another positive step, particularly for small business that have arguably been hit hardest by the global pandemic.

“When it comes to stamp duty what we really need to see, and what RICS has been calling for, is a full and thorough review of all property taxation. We will also continue to call for a VAT cut for builders looking to retrofit existing homes – an important step in really helping to deliver a greener Britain.”

EY’s UK and financial services immigration leader, Seema Farazi, commented on the announcement of a new FinTech visa: “The UK Government has today taken a decisive and affirmative step forward to position the UK as a leading hub for tech and FinTech by launching a new scale-up visa route. Supporting the growth of UK tech and FinTech is fundamental for the sectors’ global success and will also aid the UK’s economic recovery as we look to counter unemployment and increase skills in growth areas.

“A tailored visa route into UK scale-ups will have far-reaching positive implications and will support the tech sector as it looks out to the global marketplace. It is crucial the UK leads the way in attracting skills from all over the world as well as creating homegrown talent. Today’s announcement will drive progress in establishing the UK as a leading scale-up market.”

PIMFA’s senior public policy adviser, Simon Harrington, said: “We are dumbfounded that the Chancellor has frozen the Pension Lifetime Allowance until 2026. Doing so penalises pension savers looking to secure their future and in the most extreme cases sees people left with no choice but to give up work. Freezing the lifetime allowance could see a number of people inadvertently exceed their allowance and, as we have seen previously with NHS workers, incur a 55% tax hit which they otherwise would not have to pay.

“Freezing both the Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains Tax also discourages the public from investing in our economy at a time when the Chancellor himself admits we need an investment-led recovery.

“Whilst we strongly believe that there should be focus on repairing public finances, freezing the thresholds for Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and the Lifetime Allowance attacks individual personal finances and aspiration. Covid has shown how fragile the UK’s consumption-driven economy can be. We need to become a more resilient and investment driven country. This cannot be achieved without the savers and investors that would be most hit by these changes.”

Institute of Directors’ director general, Jonathan Geldart, said: “The extension to the furlough scheme will provide a vital cushion to support jobs as restrictions unwind and firms begin the costly process of rescaling. Restart grants and ongoing business rates relief give a cashflow boost to many firms that will struggle to make full productive use of their properties as restrictions linger. Widening income support for the self-employed is a step forward, but the Chancellor missed a trick by not providing grants for company directors who continue to be left out in the cold. ​

“The Chancellor’s efforts to combine life support for the economy with measures to turbocharge growth is the right call. Vouchers for SMEs to invest in technology, and provisions for management training, will help address the UK’s longstanding productivity problems whilst also boosting businesses’ ability to bounce back from the pandemic. The recovery loan package will offer a helping hand to many firms, but more needs to be done to catalyse equity investment in our cash-starved start-ups and scale-ups.

“The prospect of higher taxes will no doubt bite for many firms that are still tending to wounded balance sheets. Delaying and tiering the corporation tax rise is a pragmatic approach, though adjustments to the plan ​should remain on the table as a clearer picture of the recovery emerges. Overall there is much for businesses to get behind in this Budget, and the Treasury​should remain prepared to​extend support if the roadmap goes off course, whilst building on its stimulus package today to drive long-term growth well beyond our immediate recovery.”

International Longevity Centre director, David Sinclair, said: “We won’t Build Back Better or deliver the vision for a ‘future economy’ without recognising the economic and social challenges and opportunities which come from demographic change. Our workforce is getting older, our consumers are getting older, our carers and volunteers are getting older.

“Yet the Budget has missed an opportunity to recognise the enormity of the policy challenges which come from us living increasingly longer lives.

“Longevity could offer a huge economic return for UK PLC. By 2040, over-50s could be spending 63p in every pound. And supporting people to spend or work for longer could add 2% to UK GDP every year.

“We won’t Build Back Better without investing in health systems and focussing more of that spend on preventative health. Without this focus, Government won’t be able to deliver its ambitious goal of ensuring people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035.

“It is great news that Kickstart has funded jobs for a quarter of a million younger people. But older workers have also been hit hard by the pandemic. The Government must find a way of delivering a similar scheme for those older workers made redundant due to Covid-19.”

UK Finance chief executive, David Postings, said: “The Chancellor has set out a bold plan to support the economy in today’s Budget. The banking and finance industry has taken unprecedented action over the last year to support businesses and customers, and we will continue to work closely with the Government to help the nation get back on its feet.

“This is a well constructed Budget that positions the UK as an open and internationally competitive place to do business and we welcome the measures set out by the Chancellor to achieve this vision.”

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