Ahead of the upcoming March Budget, nearly half of UK mid-sized companies want the Chancellor to focus on supporting business growth (45%), according to research by Grant Thornton
Business growth support is flagged as more important that Covid-19 support (27%) or recovery measures (23%) in a survey of 605 senior decision makers in UK mid-market businesses conducted at the end of January.
An uptick in optimism since the end of 2020 is a likely driver for this focus on growth, with 80% of businesses surveyed feeling optimistic about the outlook of the UK economy over the next six months, an 18% point increase compared to December last year.
Outlook for revenue growth was also more positive, with 82% saying they were feeling optimistic, a 12% percentage point increase since December 2020.
To support their growth ambitions mid-market businesses would most like to see the government focus on:
- improving infrastructure (36%);
- incentives for employers to invest in skills attraction and development (35%); and
- measures to level up the economy, with more devolved powers and investment in the north and Midlands (34%)
Though businesses are primarily focused on growth it is clear that the mid-market has benefitted from government support measures throughout the pandemic, and that this support is still needed by many. Over a quarter of respondents (27%) want the government to extend or adapt current Covid-19 support measures.
Current schemes that the mid-market would most like to see extended are:
- Covid-19 corporate financing facility (33%)
- Coronavirus business interruption loans (33%)
- business rates holiday (32%); and
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (29%)
Dave Munton, partner and head of markets and clients at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: ‘Business leaders are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, which is reflected in the increased levels of optimism compared to the end of last year.
‘Though we’re currently still in a lockdown and businesses are prioritising health and safety, business leaders are planning for the mid to long term future. A likely driver for this increase in optimism is the ongoing success of the UK vaccine programme and is further bolstered by the Bank of England’s predictions of a strong economic recovery.
‘It is important that the government capitalises on this optimism as a driver for growth and backs business in the right way. Though government support has been vital during the pandemic, as we start to plan our roadmap to recovery, we can see clearly from the findings of this research that businesses are starting to look longer term, prioritising incentives and investment that support growth, with less reliance on government handouts.’