Government unveils Digital Economy Bill to aid SMEs

If small businesses were looking for some positive indication that the government is on their side and looking for ways to help them; then they hopefully received the fillip they’ve been looking for in the recent Queen’s Speech laid before Parliament. Changes to infrastructure and local business rates, the Government claims, will ensure the country “remains at the forefront of the global 21st Century economy”.

SMEs and accountants have longed called for positive change in infrastructure, particularly in the digital communications sector, as well as more local autonomy in terms of business rates: so the Government’s Digital Economy Bill will hopefully deliver on both domestic and business broadband speeds, and the devolution of business rates to local government.

So what measures in the Queen’s Speech will likely strike a chord with SMEs? Well, the 21-Bill agenda featured a Digital Economy Bill, designed to give every household and every business premises a legal right to a fast broadband connection; establishing laws to ensure telecommunications services provide better, more reliable broadband infrastructure and enable customers to receive automatic compensation if they have problems.

On top of that, the Modern Transport Bill will aim to create new jobs and fuel economic growth using the approval of the UK’s first commercial spaceports, as well as new laws for driverless cars and commercial drone flights for businesses. The Local Growth and Jobs Bill will also give local authorities total control of all money raised through business rates to entice more businesses and investment into their local economies.

Commenting on the proposals, Alison Vincent, Chief Technical Officer, Cisco UKI, said:

“The Digital Economy Bill and the resulting measures announced by the Queen today are a clear reflection of Britain’s commitment to a digital future and emphasise a continued drive towards establishing the UK as a digital world leader.”

“By laying the foundations, and establishing broadband as an essential pillar to the future of the UK economy, businesses will be able to drive innovation and build a framework that will improve productivity, fuel collaboration, capitalise on business opportunity and accelerate the UK digital economy.”

Jonathan Kinsey, head of commercial real estate services and investment firm, CBRE Rating, added:

“After two Budget announcements and 10 devolution deals, the Queen’s Speech has finally set the ball rolling on a bill to devolve business rates to local authorities.”

“While the devolution of business rates to all councils won’t be completed until 2020, the long- awaited bill will set out a framework for delivery of the scheme.”

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