Tim Walker, managing director of IT services provider Aura Technology, said: “Despite ongoing uncertainties over Brexit, our experience in the South is that businesses are positive and optimistic about the UK’s future economic prospects. That seems to be reflected in the above-expected growth levels the chancellor referred to, coupled with the fall in national debt.
“The chancellor noted that entrepreneurial businesses, and tech businesses in particular, are driving this optimism, noting that a technology business is founded every hour somewhere in the UK. With that in mind, it was welcome to see funds allocated to investment in high street broadband and for the first 5G testbeds, which are an important part of the underlying infrastructure needed for businesses to work efficiently and to maximise productivity through technology that enables remote offices and home working.
“The consultation on measures to encourage digital payments is also promising – the way we transact business as consumers has changed beyond recognition in the last decade, but business has been slow to catch up with late payments and old-fashioned payment practices holding up progress.
“The decision to bring forward the planned business rates reductions and reviews will obviously be welcomed, although I would like to hear more concrete initiatives in the full Budget in the Autumn. It would be good to see an extension and widening of investment incentives such as SEIS and EIS along with further tax incentives for entrepreneurs.
“The £840 million fund for cities to apply for funding to improve local transport infrastructure will have interested many in the south – in my view, we urgently need some of that invested in the local infrastructure, particularly along the A27 around Chichester and the A303 across Stonehenge.
“Finally, we must never forget that all successful businesses are built on people – and investing in the next generation will be key to the future strength of the economy. As a company that is actively recruiting and training staff, we welcome the release of £80m of funding to support small businesses with funding apprenticeships, which is crucial for advancing skills and helping employers fund loyal and long-term staff who can be an asset from the start of their careers.
“Apprenticeships offer a real alternative to young people to gain new skills whilst earning money, and are an alternative to the University option, where they will incur significant student debts which could take them years to clear.”