In many respects the Autumn Statement delivered exactly what we expected: with the exception of business rates, very little was said to explain what will be done to boost small firms in the coming year.
With the Chancellor having been so full of praise for the role that businesses have played in driving the recovery, it was frustrating to see that energy - the issue SME owners said they were most eager to see him address - was completely overlooked.
It's something that Jonathan Elliott, Make It Cheaper CEO and founder, noted shortly after Mr Osborne's speech:
"It's not just Ed Balls that thinks energy should have been more of a focus in the Autumn Statement. It topped the list of things that business owners told us they want tackled. With none of the green levy changes helping small firms' energy bills, we're urging businesses to take matters into their own hands and switch. If the government isn't going to help, this is an easy way to grow your bottom line, right now, without putting-up your prices or having to sell more."
However, despite the oversights, the business rates pledge will undoubtedly help a number of small retailers push down their costs. It's an encouraging sign and shows that the Chancellor isn't ready to brush the problem under the carpet. But is there a less appealing side to the policy?
One of the standout measures is that businesses moving into vacant properties will have their rates cut by 50%. This is great news for start-ups, but what about existing retailers that are already struggling to balance the books? Indeed, if their new high street competitors benefit from lower rates, those businesses that have previously managed to establish themselves will suddenly be at a real disadvantage.
Alongside this, the energy problem once again jumps into the equation: businesses moving into new premises will automatically be paying the highest rates for their gas and electricity if they don't take action to lower their bills.
So, while the government continues to ignore the energy issue, the fact is that their promise to cut rates for retailers taking up vacant premises will be somewhat negated if these firms fail to realise the importance of getting to grips with their utilities.
The Chancellor still has plenty of questions to answer following his statement - and there are a lot of sums left to do. As the intricacies slowly unfold in the coming days, the risk is that businesses will feel short-changed if they believe more could have been done to support their position - especially when it comes to energy.
Dan O’Sullivan is Make It Cheaper's Web Content Manager, which means much of his time is dedicated to ensuring we have plenty of online material to help business owners understand the energy, insurance and telecoms industries. With years of experience working alongside SMEs, Dan is committed to making life as easy as possible for smaller firms. You can email Dan at email@example.com
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