What does the Budget mean for publishing and business? Five experienced IPG members share their opinions
Francis Dodds, Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing
‘This was primarily a budget to shore up support for a weak government at the expense of eliminating the deficit. The Chancellor used higher than expected tax receipts primarily to boost NHS spending as well as soften the impact of Universal Credit. There were modest measures to help small businesses and investment as well as schools, housing and infrastructure. None of these will have a significant impact and all could well be overshadowed by a no-deal Brexit.’
Ken Rhodes, Eurospan
'In a global political environment of increased nationalism, individual intolerance and trading uncertainty, I’m actually quite reassured to have Eeyore Hammond in charge of the nation’s money. I do though feel nostalgic for the days of the ‘big reveal,’ when the Budget occasionally had significant surprises, but the truth is it would have been quite possible to write a response to 2018's Budget several days in advance.
I’m pleased to see business rate relief on the high street—though it is only relief—and a commitment to tax international digital businesses more equitably. But in a way that is genuinely peculiar, we exist in a moment when we are almost completely directionless, so a sticking plaster Budget is all we could have expected. Those of us who are in the process of penning our 2019 business budgets will feel elements of the same uncertainty, with many crossing outs and question marks adorning our spreadsheets and draft commentaries. It is rare to cite Mike Tyson as a source of wisdom, but he did apparently once say: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’. While abhorring the violent imagery, he does have a point.'
Louise Boland, Fairlight Books
‘It’s fantastic news for UK bookshops that the Chancellor will be providing additional relief for high street business rates, following the Bookseller Association’s petition and extensive lobbying earlier this year. This could make a real difference to many bookshop owners that I have spoken to, for whom business rates are currently a crushing burden.”
Timothy Wright, Edinburgh University Press
‘It seems to be a spending and investment Budget, with any windfall from the improving fiscal environment being committed. From a publishing point of view there is no mention of VAT on ebooks and other digital materials being withdrawn—so with an increasing amount of publishers’ revenues coming from ebooks, especially in the academic area, you could argue that a partial tax on reading is still in place.
For smaller businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less, the cut by over a third in business rates will help, as will the £900m business rates relief for small businesses generally. All of this and hardly a word about the elephant in the room: Brexit, the course of which could change everything. As a postscript, and as someone who runs a business based in Scotland, the widening gap in the income tax thresholds cannot escape comment. The SNP minority government in Holyrood, with support from the tiny and hard left Green Party, saw fit to freeze the thresholds last time. If they choose to do so again there will be increasing debate north of the border about the incentives for people at all levels to work in Scotland.’
Martin Casimir, Maths – No Problem! and IPG vice chair
‘Once again it wasn’t very exciting. £400m for schools is good news, but as one pundit said, it’s less than potholes get! There’s not a huge amount to cheer or boo—but until Brexit plays out the Chancellor has a very limited hand.’