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Government Spending Review: Reactions from the world of tech

In light of the release of the Government's Spending Review and Autumn Statement, various industry professionals have offered their thoughts and analysis of how the technology sector will be affected.

Sharon Argov, CEO and Co-Founder of Fundbird:

“It isn’t surprising to hear that the Funding for Lending Scheme is set to be phased out in January 2016. When it was introduced, it was a timely initiative from the government to encourage the banks to lend more to individuals and small businesses. However post-recession it doesn’t make financial sense for the government to continue with it.

"The government referral scheme is a welcome, contemporary alternative given the vast array of funding options now available to small businesses from alternative lenders. We hope to hear that the government will build on this and support the alternative finance space further, throughout 2016.

"By developing policies that encourage British businesses to utilise alternative finance lenders, we will see productivity and growth increase exponentially among Britain’s small businesses, which is a no-brainer for the government.”

Mark Furness, CEO and founder of essensys:

“If the government wants to support growing businesses in the UK there are two areas it has to get right – the growing chasm in skilled technology workers, and getting better at delivery and access for its support initiatives for growing businesses.

“The UK is likely to face a barren few years on the technical skills front. Whilst we’ll still need to ride out a difficult time, there needs to be immediate action to develop the UKs technology skills for the future. When I look at the kind of talent coming out of other countries, like Vietnam for example, we’re falling behind with each passing day. A nod to coding on the curriculum just isn’t sufficient, there needs to be wholesale change to ensure technical skills are baked in to every aspect and every layer of the UK education system.

“When it comes to stimulus for growing business anything that frees up capital is a worthy scheme. R&D tax credits have been critical for us and our continued growth – they’ve given us the freedom to keep investing in our product and that’s how great technology businesses are built.

“Sadly all too often government schemes to support small businesses involve some good thinking, but the delivery and access just isn’t up to scratch. In our early days we were involved with the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, the taxpayer-backed small business funding scheme. Unlike many others, we were successful in our application, but the process to get there was bureaucratic and complex. There was no clear reason for banks to get on board and it wasn’t well adapted to support fast growth companies. We’d love to see simpler, digital-first offerings to help businesses get off the ground fast.”

Damian Hennessey, commercial director, Proto Labs:

"The manufacturing sector is on the verge of a high-tech revolution in the UK. The convergence of software and hardware is opening up exciting new possibilities for young people looking to embark on an innovative, fast-paced career that contributes significantly to our booming digital economy. Powering forward this innovation however, cannot come from the manufacturing industry alone. Ample and continued support from government is imperative to ensure that the manufacturing sector continues to develop, and to attract the brightest and best talent to bridge the STEM skills gap.

"We eagerly await the outcomes of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. The UK manufacturing sector has to remain competitive on a global stage despite a tough economic climate. The future of this high-tech and fast-paced industry depends upon adequate funding, and ‘championing’ from all areas of government and industry."

Celia Francis, CEO of Rated People:

“In the last budget there was welcome news of proposed cuts to Corporation Tax for builders or engineers running their own business, as well as sole traders’ benefits from raises in their personal allowance.

"In tomorrow’s Autumn Statement it’s time for the Chancellor to recognise the valuable role trades play in society as well as further tax reliefs for entrepreneurs.

"George Osborne has previously unveiled steps to put Britain at the forefront of the online sharing economy, and in order to facilitate this we need to see a tax relief for young entrepreneurs who are part of our country’s digital future.

"It’s also time for the government to press ahead with much needed reforms to the tax and employment system. Existing laws are too complex meaning many SMEs and sole traders are dissuaded from hiring a second employee – a vital ingredient for any business to grow and develop.”

Rebekah Wallis, Director of People & CR National Management Ricoh UK:

“Corporate behaviour is increasingly under scrutiny. In this day and age, every measure possible should be taken to empower and maintain a strong workforce as the number one priority- the rise in the Living Wage and taking significant measures to hire apprentices, can play a huge part in this.

"As a proud Living Wage employer and champion of apprentices schemes, we believe that all businesses can play a key role in powering forward the responsible economy of the future. Continued investment and support for the Living Wage from any government, as well as the continued backing of apprenticeship training schemes, will incentivise more young people to move into paid work and to develop their crucial skills sets.

"Businesses that truly care about their societal impact will invest heavily to attract ambitious new talent and to retain a well-rounded and highly-skilled workforce. We therefore welcome any initiatives to further develop the Living Wage in the UK and we welcome the government’s continued commitment to skills with the new apprenticeship levy.”

Regina Moran, CEO UK & Ireland, Fujitsu

"As a large company that employs up to 70 apprentices in the UK every year, we are concerned about what the levy means for training – specifically the government’s insistence that we spend money with external training providers. We are a technology company working across the fields including security, energy and utilities, digital transformation, retail and financial services technology. As such we employ apprentices to work across a variety of areas including engineering and other highly technical areas.

"Some of the training we provide is therefore very specific to our products, customer sectors and our own business. Any apprenticeship funding reform that hinders our ability to train apprentices the way we need to would be a huge problem for us and I’m sure our peers across the technology world.

"We are very supportive of government plans for three million new apprenticeships to help develop the UK’s skills base and drive long-term productivity. And perhaps a levy is the right way to fund it. But we cannot support any restrictions in how we train our staff. A one-size-fits-all approach is simply not going to work. We too want to tackle skills shortages and drive up productivity, but the apprenticeship levy risks having the reverse effect."

James Norman, UK Public Sector CIO, EMC

"We saw billions of investment announced today to ensure we continue to grow as a Nation and lead as a stronger country. This is a fantastic step forward and clearly shows that the Government is starting to listen to industry more. But where was the investment in our digital foundation? Did Matt Hancock’s promise of tackling the sharing and linking of data come through? To an extent yes, by promising to eradicate paper processes by creating the most digitally advanced tax system and investing £1.8 billion for digital transformation, of which £450 million is for Government Digital Services over the next five years. However, despite the boost in funding for health, it wasn’t the amount that was expected.

"It will be interesting to see which areas they prioritise as they progress the Five Year Forward View. But we don’t just need a well-funded GDS and NHS – what we need is a digital foundation built on data and transparency, as well as a smarter approach to drive efficiencies within government, whilst improving services for citizens.

"If the Government is to meet the needs of the ‘information generation’ and deliver against demands for more online services in business support and personalised healthcare, as revealed in our recent ‘Future of Government Digital Services’ report, the digital foundation needs to be clearly mapped out and strong enough to weather the storms ahead.”