List: Ahead of Chancellor George Osborne’s 2016 Budget, CBR asks industry experts what they hope to see in tomorrow’s announcements.
In the run up to the annual budget, there is the usual political gossip and speculation doing the rounds. In response to the impending economic slowdown and slump in oil and commodity prices, speculation is rife that Chancellor George Osborne will reveal billions of pounds in cuts, with ‘pension raids’ and ‘fuel duty rises’ the most popular phrases gracing the front pages of the nationals. Those headlines share column inches with the UK’s impending EU referendum, a subject of bitter debate in Westminster and worthy of, many demand, attention in tomorrows budget.
There is much expected of the Chancellor in regards to the IT and technology sectors. The Chancellor is expected to confirm plans of driverless roll-outs and trials across the UK, while proposals for a fintech regulatory sandbox are also eagerly anticipated.
CBR reached out to the experts working in the industry to see what they want to see announced by Chancellor George Osborne – although, as we know from previous budgets, nothing is certain and it wouldn’t be the budget if not for the odd surprise announcement.
1. FinTech liberation
Tim Focas, director of financial services for Colloquium, said:
"When it comes to making the City ‘the global centre for fintech’, it would be good to finally see some policy detail behind the sound bites. Osborne needs to produce measures that speak to the entire FinTech space. This boom is not just about the flashy mobile transactions and digital currencies – some great ideas are fizzing away in the RegTech space that will truly transform middle and back office banking operations.
"From specific tax breaks to releasing the burden of regulation, it would be good to see Osborne take bold steps to liberalise fintech firms across the City. One of the main challenges facing the sector is having to adjust to similar regulatory requirements as the major banks. These firms simply don’t have the capital or man power to come with the deluge of regulation coming down the track."
Martin Campbell, MD at Ormsby Street, said:
"Much of what has been done so far by the Conservative Government has been pretty uninspiring for the tech sector, especially given the prominence UK technology firms have had over recent years. So I’d like to see this budget acknowledge the contributions of tech firms and provide the support they need to enable growth. This should absolutely include no additional tax burden and a simplification of the tax legislation already in place, which is overly complex."
"But most importantly in my opinion, is what the government is doing in Europe. I’m concerned that the commitments that the government made during the election campaign – to try and appear tough on Europe -could now threaten the growth of the UK technology sector. Europe is a natural market for many UK businesses and the ability to bring to the UK the skills and capacity in our workforce that we need to grow and innovate, is very important for success in technology. Brexit could be a real blow to this, so I’d like to see this addressed in the budget, with a more coherent argument as to why we should remain in the EU."
3. Public sector cyber security
Gordon Morrison, Director of Government Relations at Intel Security said:
"Accelerating digital transformation in the public sector is vital to deliver faster, more cost effective services. From paperless healthcare to smart cities, building a more connected government should continue to be a top priority.
"But the race for digital excellence should not overlook the very real challenges around cyber security and data privacy by a more connected world. To counter this, the government must adopt a secure-by-default strategy to ensure that data and infrastructure is protected from the outset.
"It’s an exciting time for the public sector, with technology paving the way for ground breaking new digital services. But these services must be completely secure by design to protect the public from cyber threats."
4. Great British manufacturing powerhouse
Damian Hennessey, director at Proto Labs, said:
"Ideally, we want to see a budget that provides clear support for the British manufacturing industry and its increasing role in high-tech design and development.
"The rise of 3D printing and big data technologies will transform the way businesses manage logistics and production over the next decade and the Chancellor will ideally send a signal that he recognises this. We’d like to hear support for research and development, apprenticeships and training if we want to build a great British manufacturing powerhouse that’s fit for the future."
5. STEM & Start-ups
Tudor Aw, technology sector head at KPMG, said:
"The technology sector has been neglected in recent budgets. If the UK is to punch above its weight on the global tech scene we need to see bolder proposals that will help start-ups get off the ground and back STEM skills and apprenticeship schemes. Without a comprehensive people and digital infrastructure strategy in place, we risk falling behind in hot areas, such as nanotechnology, Internet of Things, and driverless cars."
6. End to the VAT cliff
Dr. Mark K Smith, CEO of ContactEngine, said:
"The Government’s stifling VAT cliff is outrageous, unfair and needs to change in the next Budget. Once you reach £1.6 million in revenues, you go from paying VAT on receipt of payment to the moment you invoice – meaning you pay your taxes before the money is in the bank.
"I’d like to see the Government move away from the cliff model and place all businesses on cash VAT accounting. This would have the dual effect of easing the cash-flow pressure facing all successful businesses around the country whilst particularly helping small businesses who are often already disadvantaged by lengthy client payment terms."
Following Prime Minister’s Questions at 12pm, the Chancellor’s Budget speech will take place at 12.30pm on Wednesday March 16, 2016.