What does the Budget mean for independent publishers? Four experienced IPG members give their snap reactions
Martin Casimir, Maths! No Problem and IPG vice chair
For the first time in Britain’s modern history, GDP growth is expected to be below 2% for every single year of the forecast. This downgrade is the result not of global economic forces—the forecasts for most European Union economies are being upgraded—but of uncertainty and Brexit.
With this difficult news the Chancellor had little scope for manoeuvre, so the Budget is tinkering rather than game-changing. The headline-grabber was on stamp duty, which on balance is probably good news, and other measures sounded pragmatic. Unless your tipple is strong cider, you can at least buy a drink at the same price to cheer yourself up.
Di Page, Critical Publishing
On the surface there are no changes to affect us directly as a small business. As an education publisher we welcome the investment in FE colleges to implement T-level qualifications and the commitments to digital skills, Maths and Computer Science. But it is disappointing to see no more money for schools generally, or for social care (we also publish social work books)—both of which are badly underfunded.
Francis Dodds, Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing
An embattled Chancellor in a divided cabinet in a weak government, locked into balancing the books in an economy with dramatically reduced growth prospects, was never going to have much room for manoeuvre. By borrowing more and putting off dealing with the deficit even further, Mr Hammond did enough to stave off his immediate political challenges, with more money for the NHS and Brexit preparations, tweaking of universal credit and, most notably, measures to boost the housing market.
For industries such as publishing, what were most noticeable were the absences. Although there were no significant changes to business taxation, there was little to address the broader infrastructure changes required to improve productivity. The Chancellor avoided reducing the VAT threshold for small businesses and slowed future business rate increases, and there were small measures to address productivity problems such as boosting Maths teaching, broadband provision and R&D investment. However, this budget was more about survival than addressing the more fundamental challenges facing the economy.
Richard Fisher, IPG academic and policy correspondent
The dominant macro-economic news from the 2017 Budget is, clearly, the marked pessimism about both growth and productivity and the implications for our national debt, even though borrowing forecasts are slightly better than previously. These overall performance numbers are clearly not where the government wanted to be, or where its own forecasts suggested we should be. Against this, specific measures on stamp duty, other duties and infrastructural investment seem likely to be fairly small beer.
IPG members may have welcomed the first, hesitant steps to tackle tax rises in the digital economy more equitably, some concessions on business rates and VAT thresholds, and—not to be underestimated—the extension of the Young Persons' Railcard scheme to the age of 30. Specific investments in Maths and computer education, and in the Oxford-Cambridge corridor, will likewise be welcome to some. Nonetheless, the elephant in the room that is Brexit clearly threw a long shadow over much of the Chancellor’s speech, and unless and until the final Brexit outcome is determined, much of this economic conjecture remains highly speculative, and British SMEs will continue to thrive in the absence of, rather than because of, central actions on their behalf. In fairness, the opposition benches are clearly no more unified about the best Brexit outcome than their opponents in government.