When you see the image of our honourable Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, standing outside Number 10 with his shiny red suitcase it can only mean one thing – time for another budget announcement. As the eighth budget announcement during his tenure as Chancellor, George cracked down on sugar drink brands and told us all why he thinks it is crucial Britain stays in Europe. It was all riveting stuff (if you’re into fiscal planning that is) but what announcements did he make that tech companies should take note of?
Firstly, for small tech start-ups, the announcement that business rates will be reduced is welcoming. Essentially, small tech firms which set up shop in a property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less will effectively be exempt from paying any business rates. Tech investors and entrepreneurs can breathe a sigh of relief that they will have more money in their pockets to invest in their company. Moreover, the Entrepreneurs’ Relief has been extended to encourage investors to back unlisted companies. In essence, this allows an investor to finance a business and obtain the 10 per cent entrepreneurs’ rate without having to work in the business.
Other initiatives to help businesses, particularly in the communications sector, include the Broadband Investment Fund, created to help the growth of alternative broadband networks by working with private sector companies. Additionally, Osborne outlined plans to establish an Institute of Coding by forming a panel of experts to shape and oversee its creation, with the aim of providing young people with digital skills like coding. For the technology companies based in the UK, the fact that government is committed to nurturing home-grown digital talent is welcoming.
On the surface then, it seems George’s budget was largely focused on giving small companies a boost, however it also demonstrated the government’s commitment to meeting its overall digital objectives. As part of its aim to support broadband and mobile infrastructure, the government plans to increase ultrafast broadband in the South West to £14.5m. Additionally, the government is set to push ahead with its plans for 5G by setting up a review to examine the benefits of the technology and hopes to have a strategy by 2017. On pioneering technologies, the government committed £10m to fund a data centre to create more accurate stats from big data and advance the development of tech initiatives like driverless cars.
So it looks like George’s latest budget has been one that could potentially have a lot to offer for technology companies, both big and small. What’s more, technology initiatives like driverless cars and big data are still high on the agenda and it’s comforting to know that the UK is still ambitious in its digital plans.
Leke Apena, Senior Account Executive