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Mixed views on Brown’s pre-election Budget

Industry response to the recent Budget has been mixed. Commentators say that despite some business friendly announcements, shocks may be in store after the General Election in May. Chancellor Gordon Brown’s statement froze corporation tax, insurance premium tax, company car tax and fuel duty for six months and increased tax credits on ‘research and development’ expenses.

Describing his Budget as one of ‘affordable cuts and essential improvements’ Brown also announced a £65m spend on new centres for vocational qualifications and on employee training, along with a £2,000 return-to-work bonus as well as a target of 300,000 people in apprenticeship schemes by 2008.

Low inflation and low interest rates were key to continued British stability and growth, and he saw the country’s business future as a world leading location for ‘science based, knowledge based, skills based industries’.

Brown told Parliament he was not cutting small business support and has earmarked £300m in local business-led regeneration. The Government also pledged to implement the recommendations of the Hampton Review, reducing the burden of regulation.

But tax exemption for stamp duty on commercial property in disadvantaged areas has been removed. Stephen Quest, tax partner at Grant Thornton, says: “This measure comes out of the blue and will cause significant disruption. There may be a replacement for this relief – we hope it is implemented soon.”

Christopher Macgowan, SMMT chief executive, says: “The Chancellor’s commitment to a light regulatory touch follows improved dialogue and should prevent unnecessary burdens on a sector facing rising supply chain costs and exchange rate pressures.”

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