Belfast Telegraph

Big help given to small companies

Small businesses were among the chief beneficiaries of yesterday's pre-election Budget, as the Chancellor introduced measures designed to promote industrial growth.

Business leaders described Alistair Darling's statement as a "doughty performance," pointing to several policies, such as extending the so-called "time to pay" scheme which allows distressed businesses to delay corporation tax payments, as positive steps.

Small businesses in England will also benefit from the one-off cut in business rates, which will fall from 48.5 pence in the pound, to 41.4 pence for 12 months from October. Those companies that have previously paid rates of up to £6,000 will pay no business rates for a year from October. A Treasury spokeswoman said: "Northern Ireland has its own business rates relief scheme, but the Government will fund the equivalent if they choose to follow suit."

Increased lending will be backed by a newly created credit adjudicator, who will consider whether the banks have unfairly rejected loan requests. The adjudicator will have the power to overturn lenders' decisions.

The Chancellor began his speech with a promised £2.5bn package to help small businesses boost skills and innovation, which he said would be paid for out of proceeds of the bank bonus tax. Mr Darling also said that more public sector contracts would be awarded to small companies.

Other measures he announced included a new Growth Capital Fund to provide private capital for fast growing companies and a surprise doubling of the entrepreneurs' relief for capital gains tax - from £1m-worth of profits to £2m. Capital Gains Tax will also remain at its current level of 18%.

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