Wintery weather may be sweeping across large parts of the UK, but for George Osborne the sun was shining this morning. The Chancellor declared that his economic plan is working and made a number of big pledges in a bid to help businesses.
The Chancellor confirmed two new rate reliefs - halving business rates for those taking on empty properties and giving a £1000 rebate to high street retailers, including retail hospitality. He also capped all business rate increases in 2014 at 2 per cent and rolled over small business rate relief for another year.
Other big measures announced in the mini-Budget included a boost in the start-up loans scheme, aiming to help 50,000 more people start up their own businesses, and an employers' national insurance cut for young people (aged under 21) - part of a revamped bid to tackle the youth unemployment crisis.
Autumn statement 2013: Hospitality’s reaction
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive, British Hospitality Association
“The abolition of national insurance contributions for those starting out is welcome news and will surely stimulate job creation in both the hospitality sector and beyond. The commitment of the hospitality and tourism industry to creating jobs and supporting young people is evident in the British Hospitality Association’s Big Hospitality Conversation which has shown the potential of creating new jobs, apprenticeships and work placements for young people, and increasing hospitality employment to 3 million by 2020.
"The hospitality industry, which accounted for nearly one third of new jobs created between 2010 and 2012, has moved to be one of the top four employing sectors in the UK. As well as incentivising businesses to employ young people, the Autumn Statement will help to control hospitality business costs by capping the increase in business rates in England at 2% in 2014-15.
"The BHA was also pleased to see plans to provide additional support to businesses in England including pubs, cafes and restaurants, through a business rates discount of up to £1,000 in 2014-15 and 2015-16 for retail properties with a rateable value of up to £50,000 and promised consultation on making change of use from retail to restaurants easier."
Kate Nicholls, affairs director, ALMR
“Business rates are a major burden on our members - next April’s increase alone could have sucked £58m out of the sector. That is cash that would otherwise have been spent on our property and our people and so we have been campaigning hard this year to get politicians to understand that a tax on property and business is a tax on jobs and investment.
“We are delighted that the Chancellor has responded so positively to all our proposals and we look forward to working with him on the root and branch reform of the regime ahead of the next revaluation in 2017.
“We are also pleased that the Government has recognised the importance of pubs and casual dining to the health and well-being of our communities and in particular the high street. A vital and vibrant hospitality offer is key to attracting shoppers back to our high streets, encouraging them to stay longer and spend more in local shops, and to creating sustainable town centres.
“We hope the local planners and licensing officers take note of the Chancellor’s championing of hard working pub and restaurant operators.”
Mike Benner, chief executive, Camra
“Camra welcomes the Chancellor’s decision to cut business rate bills for the majority of pubs by £1,000. This is in addition to an extension of the current small business rate relief provisions for a further year. The Chancellor’s £1,000 windfall offers a vital lifeline for struggling licensees and will help keep pubs open."
"All but the largest community pubs will benefit from this £1,000 reduction in business rates and around a quarter will additionally gain from the retention of the current small business rate relief for another year. These decisions are key in helping secure the future of pubs and reverse a decade of decline which has seen more than 10,000 pubs close."
“Business rates are a growing burden on pubs and can account for around 30 pence per pub pint sold. Today’s announcement builds on the historic beer duty cut earlier this year and gives further cause for Britain’s 15 million pub goers to raise a glass to the Chancellor."
“We hope the Chancellor will continue his commitment to beer and pubs and the million jobs they support by freezing beer duty in next year’s Budget.”
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive, BBPA
“These are very positive steps on business rates, and the Chancellor was right to champion pubs in his speech. We welcome the Chancellor’s decision to extend Small Business Rate Relief which was one of the first objectives of the Better Rates for Pubs campaign. It shows real support from the Government for pubs, and that BBPA calls are being heeded.”
“It is also very good news for rural pubs that the proposed increase in fuel duty has been scrapped.”
Alexander Jackman, head of policy, Forum of Private Business
“There are some positive measures in today’s speech to help reduce the costs of doing business. With fuel duty frozen, £1,000 rebate on business rates and a subsidy on employing young people, there are measures worth thousands to small businesses.
“Within a time of constrained budgets, it’s good to see the Chancellor has listened to the concerns of small businesses around rising costs.
“Of course there are other issues not addressed directly today, but upon which work is ongoing. Top amongst these is energy prices. We are working hard to ensure members benefit from any reining back of green taxation.”
David Ford, regional director, CVS (business rates specialists)
“The Chancellor’s package of measures today shows that business rates is at the top of the UK business community’s agenda and has got the Government’s close attention. The announcement of a rates cap, monthly instalment payments, the extension of Small Business Rate Relief and the £1,000 discount for smaller properties will be welcome news across the country.
“What’s most encouraging in the Autumn Statement is that the Chancellor has committed to clearing almost the whole backlog of rates appeals by July 2015. This is a welcome and ambitious target which will return cash to businesses and help iron out regional disparities which followed the 2010 list and the onset of the economic crisis. We hope that Government will recognise the important work of the VOA and fully support it in achieving this aim.
“It is positive news that the Chancellor has heeded the calls of the whole industry to review the business rates system. Between now and the review in 2017, we will continue to call for a commitment to regular valuations, a switch from RPI to CPI, an improved appeals process and other measures to help businesses stay competitive under an effective rates system.”
Katie Corrigan, head of hospitality and Leisure, Tods Murray (law firm)
“The Autumn Statement was a mixed bag for the hospitality and leisure industry. There were a number of important announcements. The cancellation of the fuel duty rise will be of particular benefit to rural businesses and communities. Also, the abolition of National Insurance for under-21s, in reducing costs to employers provides a welcome boost to this area of the jobs market.”
“Disappointingly there was no reduction in the alcohol duty escalator on wines and spirits following the abolition of it for beer in the Budget earlier this year. Additionally, there was no mention of reducing VAT on food supplied by hospitality businesses despite the VAT campaign and Tax Parity Day earlier in the year. Both would be of great benefit to the sector.”
So, for the hospitality industry, there is some good news to be taken from today: Osborne announced some measures which will undoubtedly help many business owners. But, as the Chancellor himself admitted, 'the job is not yet done' and by refusing to budge on things like cutting high rates of VAT, some barriers to growth still remain.
What do you think? Will these announcements help your business? Should George Osborne have focused on other areas to help support the hospitality industry? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts...