The Autumn Statement and the tech sector: a relentless focus on growth is needed to begin the UK’s economic revival
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement aimed to reassure financial markets while at the same time setting out a plan to support public services and lay the groundwork for plans to kickstart economic growth.
For the tech sector the Chancellor made bold claims ‘to turn Britain into the world’s next Silicon Valley’ and while the sector will welcome some of the measures introduced, the most significant announcements were a range of policy reviews that will take place over the coming year.
However, while many of these announcements were positive, significant spending cuts penciled in for 2025 and beyond as well as predictions from the Office for Budget Responsibility of a major slowdown in economic growth and declining living standards highlight the risks of not moving fast enough to boost the UK’s underlying economic growth rate.
The tech sector has a hugely important role to play here with DCMS figures showing that if well supported the sector could add £41.5bn to the UK economy by 2025. The Government must therefore move at speed to deliver a new policy agenda to drive up the skills base, innovation and financial incentives vital for the UK’s economic revival.
Below techUK gives our reaction to the statement as well as a summary and analysis.
Responding to the Autumn statement, techUK CEO Julian David said:
techUK members will welcome the significant increase in the generosity of the R&D tax credit which will be applied to data and cloud computing costs for the first time from April 2023. This will help companies embrace the digital tools they need to improve productivity. It is also welcome that the Government will not proceed with damaging proposals for an Online Sales Tax.
However, the Autumn statement predicts a difficult time ahead, with implications for public spending and living standards. techUK members are ready to help with the relentless focus on growth which is now needed. We welcome the commitments to future reform through important reviews on skills, potential new incentives for innovation, and a regulatory reform agenda for a ‘big bang’ in high-tech investment to be led by Sir Patrick Vallance.
These measures offer the greatest opportunities for our sector to contribute to the UK’s economic revival and must be addressed at pace.
Summary and anaylsis of the Autumn Statement and what it means for the tech sector:
Below techUK sets out, (1) the key decisions for the tech sector in the Statement, (2) the major policy reviews announced and (3) what this means for the long term.
1. Key Autumn Statement decisions:
In the Autumn Statement the Chancellor made a number of decisions that will be implemented in the near term. These included:
The Government will drop proposals for an Online Sales Tax: the Government will not proceed with plans for an Online Sales Tax (OST) after considering the evidence and arguments from digital businesses and retailers alike. techUK opposed an OST which would have resulted in significant extra costs to businesses and consumers. You can read techUK’s submission to the Online Sales Tax Consultation here.
Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) will be applied to Electric Vehicles: in order to try and better equalise the taxes paid by different vehicle types electric cars will become eligible for the lowest rate of VED while electric vans, motorcycles and other vehicles will also become eligible for new taxes. The measures will be legislated for in the Autumn Finance Bill 2022.
Reforms to R&D incentives: for expenditure on or after 1 April 2023, the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) rate will increase from 13% to 20%. This is a welcome announcement as the increased rate will come alongside the expansion of the credit to cover cloud computing and data costs and will ensure R&D tax credits keep pace with the increase in corporation tax.
However, the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) additional deduction will decrease from 130% to 86%, and the SME credit rate will decrease from 14.5% to 10%. The Government will also consult on the design of a single scheme ahead of the next Budget (in the spring) and will work with industry groups such as techUK to examine this.
Further the government is seeking to build upon the success of the audio-visual creative industry tax reliefs, covering film, animation, high-end TV, children’s TV and video games. The government will consult on a series of proposals that will go further to support the growth of the audio-visual sectors. You can find this consultation here.
Public R&D spending: the Government will maintain it’s plans to increase public R&D spending to £20bn per year by 2024-25 as well as increasing funding for the UK’s 9 Catapults by 35%.
Solvency II Reform: the Government has published its plans to reform the Solvency II regulation which aims to unlock additional financial capital from the insurance sector to be invested in infrastructure and growth. The Government’s consultation response can be found here.
Bringing forward the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill: the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill will be brought forward to provide new powers to the ‘Digital Markets Unit’ (DMU) in the CMA to increase competition in digital markets; and introduce measures to tackle ‘subscription traps’ and fake reviews online.
techUK supports the delivery of a Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill that boosts competition and consumer choice but also contains the right checks and balances needed for in-scope firms to make the regime work for the whole of the digital economy. You can read techUKs views on the proposed pro-competition regime for digital markets here.
2. Future Policy Reviews:
As well as making some immediate decisions the Autumn Statement also set out a number of policy reviews. These reviews cover fundamental areas for the tech sector and could be hugely significant.
Regulatory Reform for Growth: the government will create a taskforce to review EU law to identify changes that can be made over the next year with the greatest potential to unlock growth in key growth industries. These include digital technology, life sciences, green industries, financial services, and advanced manufacturing.
This initiative will be led by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and National Technology Officer (Sir Patrick Vallance) and will consider how the UK can better regulate emerging technologies, enabling their rapid and safe introduction to boost productivity and growth. techUK has long called for focused action to deliver better regulation that supports emerging technology innovation and deployment. We have worked with Sir Patrick in the past and will be engaging with his team as a matter of priority to unlock new opportunities for the UK tech sector.
Appointment of Sir Michael Barber as an advisor on skills reform: Sir Michael Barber has been appointed to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Education on the implementation of reforms set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper such as delivering T Levels, approving Higher Technical Qualifications, rolling out skills bootcamps, and introducing the Lifelong Learning Entitlement from 2025. Addressing the UK’s digital skills gap and developing an effective regime for retraining is vital with techUK members highlighting a lack of skills as major reason for a drop in business confidence and cost increases in our latest Digital Economy Monitor.
Review of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS): A HM Treasury-led review of the EBRS will determine support for non-domestic energy consumers, excluding public sector organisations, beyond 31 March 2023. The government has published the terms of reference for the review with the outcome due on 31 December 2022.
The Government however is clear the overall scale of support that will be provided by the scheme will be significantly lower, and targeted at the most at risk companies. techUK will be working closely with the Government to ensure critical digital infrastructure remains supported and we can keep our economy and public services online throughout the winter and beyond.
Investment zones: plans for investment zones will be refocused to a limited number of high potential clusters based around UK universities. These will be to be announced in the coming months.
3. What this means for the long term:
While the Government has made some important announcements today and set out some vital policy reviews to conclude over the next year, the fiscal forecast provided today by the OBR is bleak about the UK’s economic prospects.
Economic disruption, high interest rates and energy costs caused by the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have meant the OBR has significantly downgraded its forecasts for the UK economy and predicts the largest fall in living standards since the 1940s.
The Government has also delayed many public spending decisions until 2025/26 pencilling in billions of pounds of spending cuts from 2025 onwards unless the UK’s economic growth increases.
The Autumn Statement therefore underscores the urgent need for Government to work with industry to undertake a relentless focus on growth or face unenviable choices come 2025.
The tech sector has a hugely important role to play here with DCMS figures showing that if supported the sector could add £41.5bn to the UK economy by 2025.
While our most recent survey highlighted a drop in confidence members signaled that focused support to incentivise innovation and R&D, improve access to talent, rollout key digital infrastructure and deliver coherent, business friendly regulation could turn this around helping deliver tech led growth.
As Associate Director for Policy Neil leads on techUK's policy development in the UK. In this role he regularly works with UK and Devolved Government Ministers, senior civil servants and members of the UK’s Parliaments with the aim of helping to make the UK the best place to start, scale and develop a tech business.
Neil joined techUK in 2019 to lead on techUK’s input into the UK-EU Brexit trade deal negotiations. He acts as a spokesperson for techUK in the media and at Parliamentary Committees. Neil was listed by the Politico newspaper as one of the 20 people who matter in UK tech.
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Margherita is the Head of Press and Media at techUK, working across all communications and marketing activities and acting as the point of contact for media enquiries.
Margherita works closely with the staff at techUK to communicate the issues that matter most to our members with the media.
Prior to joining techUK, Margherita worked in public relations across technology, public affairs, and charity, designing evidence-based strategic campaigns and building meaningful ties with key stakeholders.
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Julian David is the CEO of techUK, the leading technology trade association that aims to realise the positive outcomes that digital technology can achieve for people, society, the economy and the planet.
Julian led the transformation of techUK from its predecessor Intellect in 2014, putting an increased focus on the growth and jobs the technology industry offers in a global economy. He has since led its impressive expansion driving forward the tech agenda in key areas such as skills, innovation, business success and public sector transformation. He leads techUK’s 90-strong team representing a thousand British based tech companies, comprising global and national champions and 600 SMEs. In 2020, techUK joined forces with TechSkills, the employer-led organisation that aims to improve the flow of talent into the digital workforce and open up access for all to high value tech jobs.
Julian represents techUK on a number of external bodies including the Digital Economy Council, the National Cyber Security Advisory Council and the Department of Business and Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. He is member of the NTA Advisory Board of DIGITALEUROPE and is a member of the Board of the Health Innovation Network the South London Academic Health Science Network.
Julian has over thirty years of experience in the technology industry. Prior to joining techUK, he had a series of leadership roles at IBM including Vice President for Small and Medium Business and Public Sector. After leaving IBM he worked as a consultant helping tech SMEs establish successful operations in the U.K. His personal interests include Football (West Ham, Balham FC and Real Madrid) and Art.