Political spin over substance was the view from Hampshire business leaders at the latest Wilkins Kennedy Round Table, who were left unimpressed by the Chancellor’s Budget.

None present felt their sector had been given much of a helping hand by the raft of initiatives unveiled by George Osbourne.

Billed as a “Budget for Growth” that would be pro-jobs and pro-business, the table was united in thinking the Chancellor hadn’t gone far enough in his efforts to restore confidence.

The 1p cut at the petrol pumps was dismissed as headline grabbing that would have no impact on the consumer or the wider economy, with fuel companies playing a pricing game that meant few benefitted.

Similar skepticism surrounded the proposal to combine National Insurance and Income Tax, which was described as a political minefield and unlikely ever to make it into law.

One warmly welcomed measure from the famous red briefcase was the cut in corporation tax to make the UK internationally competitive. However delegates felt the reduction was more likely simply to encourage existing businesses to stay put rather than lure new companies to our shores. One tax expert also pointed out that most large companies are already adept at avoiding corporation tax.

Instead, most present would have liked to see the Chancellor focus his financial help on the small businesses that are the backbone of both the Hampshire economy and that of the wider UK.

The SME sector and the so-called squeezed middle were the biggest hypothetical beneficiaries when the table was given the opportunity to play Chancellor for the day. There were policies to ban the bonus culture, change the way business rates are calculated, give small companies the same kind of assistance startups enjoy, changes in the way business rates are calculated, caps on top level bonuses and investment in graduate and apprentice training schemes.

And it seems Osbourne missed at least one populist trick, with one member imaginatively suggesting a 10% VAT rate for the day of the Royal Wedding as a way of boosting morale and encouraging consumer spend.

Finally, a show of hands revealed every delegate agreed that interest rates are certain to rise before the end of the year.

Attendees: -

  • Gareth Lewis, Director, Polymedia
  • Michael Tizard Partner, Wilkins Kennedy
  • Naomi Nesbit Manager, Wilkins Kennedy
  • Chris Ridge Director, London Clancy
  • Ann Boyes, Allied Irish Bank
  • Padraig Murphy, Allied Irish Bank
  • Annelies Culley, Goadsby
  • Leigh-Sara Timberlake, Business Southampton
  • Lynne Beasant, Coffin Mew LLP
  • Rhys Little, Creative Director, Plug + Play
  • Ray Facey, Commercial Director, Solent Stevedores

For details of the next Round Table or to attend, contact Claire Peers on claire.peers@wilkinskennedy.com