Expert Comment: What does the Autumn Statement 2023 mean for SMEs in the North West?
With the Chancellor delivering his Autumn Statement for 2023 on 22 November, Professor Mandy Parkinson, Professor of Business Innovation at Salford Business School, reflects on what the changes mean for SMEs in the UK.
If you are a sole trader, micro business or small business what does the Autumn budget mean for you? Did you welcome the announcements? In part, I suspect for many there were positives and it is acknowledged that the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the extension of the 75% business rate relief discount for retail, hospitality and leisure and plans to address late payments that haunt many small businesses. Couple this with the abolishment of Class 2 and reduction in Class 4 national insurance to 8% from April for sole traders, and it might feel like a positive Budget for many small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
But more can and should be done to continue to support our small businesses and to harness the power of SMEs to support our economic growth as a North West region. We need to see more support for access to finance, business support services, favourable policies, and infrastructure support.
The announcement that stood out for me was the comment that “AI will be at the heart of any future growth” and followed by further investment in this area over the next 3 years to support this. AI is a gamechanger of that we can agree, but how do we ensure that our SME communities can access the support to adopt AI for future growth of their businesses? How will this investment pass through to the businesses who need to embrace this technology?
Universities like the University of Salford can and should be a conduit to support the translation of this technology into business solutions that promote innovation and support growth within our small businesses. This is extremely important when you consider that within the North West alone, our SME communities already contribute circa £1.7 billion gross value added (GVA) and if AI is at the heart of future growth then we must support these same businesses to embrace the right type of technology, and ultimately become more productive, more efficient and more profitable.
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