Autumn Budget 2021: Sheffield law firm boss Toby Harper says Rishi Sunak failed to give entrepreneurs a shot in the arm

The post-pandemic Budget failed to deliver the shot in the arm many entrepreneurs were hoping for, a Sheffield business leader has warned.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 3:39 pm

Toby Harper said the Chancellor’s announcements didn’t match the ambition many business owners wanted to see.

Mr Harper is chief executive of Harper James Solicitors, based in Sheffield, which supports almost 2,000 SMEs.

He applauded money for research and development, a £1.4 billion Global Britain Investment Fund, £312 million for British Business Bank start-up loans and £95m to fund projects through the Office for Life Sciences.

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Toby Harper, chief executive of Harper James Solicitors, based in Sheffield,

He also welcomed an increase in InnovateUK’s budget to £1bn and £150m for regional networks of Dragons’ Den-style investors.

But he also criticised the Chancellor for not going far enough and being ‘a drop in the ocean’ compared to what businesses need.

He added: “After a year-and-a-half of focusing mainly on survival, businesses were looking to the Chancellor to provide them with the support to grow their businesses and make up for lost time.

“The shot in the arm so many were hoping for has not quite been delivered.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget to the House of Commons in London. Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire

At the same time, he said, SMEs were facing a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges including continued fears over a new wave of Covid-19, reduced financial help from the state, soaring energy bills, disrupted supply lines, higher wage costs and continued labour shortages.

He added: “The Government has rightly been applauded for putting research and development packages at the heart of its ‘build back better’ agenda.

“Yet when you dig deeper into the detail, the targets they have set today are far too low. Let’s not forget this is a country who led the world on developing a Covid vaccine then scaled it up in a way which truly put our global competitors in the shade.

“However, rather than build on that, the Government has set a target of spending just 2.4 per cent of GDP on supporting research and development by 2027.

“This sum - £65bn - will still leave the UK distinctly mid-table globally with South Korea, Japan, Germany and the US all investing more than 3 per cent of GDP on scientific research and development.

“An opportunity has been missed not least when you consider how our borrowing commitments are lower than predicted.

“The Chancellor could have gone further. He decided to slam on the brakes.”

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