Over one million British companies are set to become the lowest corporation tax rate payers in the G20 after the Chancellor's decision to stick by his pledge to cut corporation tax to 17pc by 2020 in this year's Autumn Statement.
The tax rate cut comes amid a flurry of spending plans to boost the UK's lagging productivity, under-developed infrastructure and emerging tech industry. Central to the plans is a £23bn investment fund for infrastructure and innovation set to deliver a surge in spending on roads, rail, low-emission vehicles, broadband and 5G.
In the first budget statement since the UK's decision to leave the EU Philip Hammond promised a package of plans to make the UK the number one destination for business to bring investment, jobs and prosperity. But not everyone is convinced.
Speaking to the Telegraph, bosses from around the country, representing a range of sectors from construction to and software, give their verdict on what the Chancellor’s speech means for their business, and where he didn’t go far enough:
The construction boss: Martyn Coffey, chief executive of outdoor materials maker Marshalls
“We supply the construction industry, so all this talk of building homes and infrastructure is a definitely a move in the right direction but it does leave us asking three questions: what, where and when? Announcing money is great but what we need is the detail – and that’s what the Chancellor’s statement lacked. We were hoping for lists of 'shovel-ready’ projects so we could plan around them.
“The idea of improving the country’s productivity – whether it’s through infrastructure or R&D – is also welcome. As a manufacturer we are always looking for ways to make our products at a lower cost or faster to install.
“Fuel not going up is a relief. We’re hedged for a while but currency means its going to rise, inevitably. I’d have liked to have seen tax incentives for manufacturers to invest in new equipment to make them more productive – a missed opportunity.”
The fashion retailer: Laura Tenison, founder of maternity and baby fashion brand JoJo Maman Bebe
“Given the level of uncertainty following the Brexit vote, I had hoped the Autumn Statement would have been more substantial and given us confidence to push on with our investment plans, which are currently in limbo. I am encouraged that the Chancellor committed to reducing corporation tax to 17pc as it makes Great Britain an unbelievably efficient place to do business.
“However, it is frustrating that not more has been done on business rates. Rate rises are killing off the high street and shops are no longer a gold mine for retailers – more often they are a shop front for an online business which requires substantial investment. Retailers are being squeezed from every which way and the business rates system needs to be re-evaluated.
“I agree with the national living wage increase and we pay all our staff well above the minimum. But Philip Hammond should have tackled the apprenticeship levy, which is an inefficient stealth tax for our industry.”
The manufacturer: David Hall, chief executive pipe-maker Polypipe
“It’s a sensible and pragmatic statement. Hammond has not gone for gold in terms of stimulus so he’s left himself wiggle room in needs be.
“The housing announcements are good news for a manufacturer like us, although a lot of that was announced at the Conservative conference. Flood alleviation measures will also be positive. Providing the funds are in place to give that boost, these are helpful steps.
“One thing missing was stamp duty, which given the secondary housing market is still weak means we don’t see the chain effect through the economy, with people doing up their houses as they move.
“The corporate taxes are no different to what’s been signalled, but that needs to be done in this post-Brexit environment. On salary sacrifice reforms, it’s probably hard to argue with the change, but there’s a broader point to be made about tinkering with tax, because employers and employees make plans based on policies.
“There’s no real detail there on industrial strategy, and a lot of the productivity steps seem to be overlapping with infrastructure announcements. But there’s more to come, and the more they do in that direction is positive.
“It’s really about getting delivery. Governments quite like making these announcements, and it can take a lot of time to wash through. With transport, for example, getting the projects down to a local level can help get movement more quickly. The national infrastructure commission gives us a sense that they realise strategy is important, but delivery is key.”