Mini-budget fall out impacts business

"Kamikaze Kwarteng" is one of the more polite epithets in circulation at the moment.

The popular opinion, stoked by the media, is that he has single-handedly and recklessly destroyed the UK economy within weeks of taking office

The facts don't make for good reading.

  • The £ is at its lowest level for 40 years
  • Bond markets are in freefall
  • The Bank of England has had to step in with an emergency bail-out to stop pension funds from collapsing
  • A sharp rise in interest rates seems certain
  • The IMF has compared the policies to the tactics of a developing nation

And all of this against a backcloth of spiralling inflation, a cost of living crisis, an energy crisis, and an ugly war not far from our front door.

A reality check

But before we all slit our wrists, let’s have a look at what was in the budget for businesses.

The Corporation tax rise was cancelled, keeping it at 19% when it was due to rise to 25% on profits exceeding £250,000 from April. This will save many businesses money.

National Insurance tax will be lowered by 1.25% for both employers and employees saving a million businesses around £10,000 a year. With the Employment Allowance continuing, the Government calculates that 40% of businesses won't pay any NICs from November 2022.

Investment Allowances have been enshrined at £1m per annum to encourage businesses to go to town on their investment plans.

This is all alongside the cuts to income tax, the energy price cap and Stamp Duty cuts, which have caused the uproar, but may take some of the pressure off employers to increase salaries.

While cutting the top rate of income tax and failing to provide a payment plan for the resulting increase in borrowing were massive PR own-goals, it could be argued that this is a good budget for business if the markets can be calmed and inflation and interest rates can be brought under control.

Of course, that's a big if.

We are in the middle of a perfect storm, for as much as we have a weak pound, we have a strong US$. Each time the Fed hikes interest rates, the hot money rushes across the pond. The £ isn't the only currency that is down against the US$: the euro, the Yen, and a whole basket of smaller currencies are in the same position, several worse than the pound.

I get the reasons, but what can I do?

All of this explains, but doesn't remove the fact that a weak pound compounded by global supply chain issues will have a marked effect on material costs for any business that relies on imports. UK exporters, on the other hand, will be buoyant as they will see their goods become instantly more competitive.

The impact goes beyond importers and exporters. While domestic demand is currently still relatively strong and employment levels are high, any fall in either precipitated by rising interest rates, weak sterling and the cost-of-living crisis could put the squeeze on many businesses.

There are no easy answers, but we are seeing businesses starting to manage their risks over this turbulent period by:

  • building clauses into contracts to allow for exchange rate variations and supply chain delays
  • offering to pay up front for materials to secure supply and negotiate better rates
  • revisiting cash flow forecasts or, in some cases, making a cash flow forecast for the first time
  • buffering cash reserves by releasing cash tied up in invoices and assets
  • fixing the cost of finance
  • sourcing items locally.

Some of this is done by effectively combining finance products: factoring to release cash that is tied up in invoices and applications for payment; short-term trade finance facilities for materials coming in from overseas; and asset finance to spread the cost of equipment and vehicles.

Securing these facilities can be challenging at a time when lenders are nervous too. The support of a specialist broker with the knowledge and network to facilitate the applications can be the difference between success and failure. If you think one of our team can help, we'll be delighted to hear from you.

Mini-budget fall out impacts business

By: Neil Edwards

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