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Spring Statement 2018: techUK reaction

Tuesday March 13th, 2018

Commenting on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Spring Statement (March 13th), techUK Deputy CEO Antony Walker has welcomed key announcements for the digital sector.Government Opportunities

He said:
“The forecasts show that the UK is coming to the end of the Government’s deficit reduction strategy. But many businesses will be concerned that the UK is forecast to grow more slowly than many competing economies around the world. As a result, we need to stay focused on maintaining digital investment to drive productivity and growth.

In a speech that was intentionally thin on new fiscal announcements, we welcome the Chancellor’s measures on tech and innovation, in particular, encouraging cashless and digital payments. We look forward to reviewing proposals to make it easier for businesses to deal with VAT on online sales. The announcement of the first 50 per cent of money allocated in the November Budget for the rollout of broadband shows ongoing commitment to concrete steps towards the delivery of improved digital infrastructure.”

On digital taxation

“The decision to provide more detail about Government plans on tax and the digital economy is welcome given the concerns voiced by industry. This is a highly complex issue and it is important that Government takes into account the risk of unintended consequences that could result from moving to a revenue-based tax approach. However, it remains the case that international cooperation and coordination are key. Unilateral action in this area continues to risk cutting across international efforts at the OECD.”

On departmental ‘Brexit’ allocations

“It’s clear that Government Departments need to be fully resourced to cope with the complexities of ‘Brexit’. Additional funding for HMRC, the Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are particularly significant in building capacity to ensure we meet key Brexit demands on data flows, and the movement of both goods and people.”

On skills

“techUK supports the decision to provide £50 million to help employers roll out T-levels. T-Levels can have a positive impact on improving digital skills. However, they won’t be successful unless businesses of all sizes have the capacity to engage effectively in their delivery. The announcement of support for SMEs struggling to deliver the Apprenticeship Levy is also welcome news. Small tech businesses with higher than average salaries are more likely to be caught in the Levy and need real support to deliver effective apprenticeship programmes. However, there remains an urgent need for significant reform of the Levy to provide the flexibility necessary to close the digital skills gap.

Today’s statement is a notable break from the raft of eye catching changes found in full budget statements of the past. At a time when businesses are focused on dealing with ‘Brexit’ and a range of other demands, the focus is rightly on delivery. But it is crucial that stability does not equal complacency. The UK tech sector needs a strong UK economy, and that must remain the focus of every part of Government.”

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