WEDNESDAY 30 NOV 2016 3:49 PM


With last week’s autumn statement mulling over in the minds of the politically concerned, Philip Hammond made his long-awaited first omission as chancellor of the exchequer. Yet for some, the November declaration was a red herring for an anxious post-referendum government.

For others, it was a well-needed step away from the cauldron pot of the Cameron-Osborne era. In any case, the autumn statement undoubtedly lays the economic foundation for a headlong plunge into the mysterious mires of Brexit Britain.

Gauging what the statement might mean for communications may require closer contact with Hammond’s pledge towards investing in infrastructure and innovation. In a push towards digital developments, the chancellor expressed concerns for societal limitations without the involvement of digital technology, saying, “Our future transport, business and lifestyle needs will require world class digital infrastructure to underpin them.” Hammond’s ambition for Britain to be a world-leader in 5G technology may be limited only by its high implementation costs, yet with a £1billion investment that includes national fibre-broadband expansion, Britain may see new levels of connectivity by 2020-21.

With the London-centric narrative a key theme throughout both 2015’s general election and this year’s referendum, Katie Gallagher, managing director of Manchester Digital, says, “We are in agreement with Hammond that for too long investment has been focused on London. We look forward to hearing more detail on what this will mean for the north and specifically Manchester.”

The direct impact on businesses was marked by commitments to cut corporation tax to 17% from its current 20% rate, aiming to be the lowest rate in the G20, the plans hope to benefit over 1 million businesses. With research and development factored into the announcement of the new National Productivity Investment Fund (the NPIF targets 4 areas: housing, transport, digital communications and R&D), Lucy Rose-Walker, CEO of Entrepreneurial Shark, says, “Investment into R+D is crucial for British firms to compete in a global economy. The commitment of £2billion per year in tax breaks between now and 2020 for research and development will certainly help, however we’d like to see more done to help start-ups and scale ups access finance to help them grow.”

The statement swiftly made headlines as its inclusion of the Office for Budget Responsibilities’ (OBR) calculations on Brexit received criticism from various political figures, yet with varied commitments in the direction of digital progression, Hammond’s detailed commitments to digital mark a positive governmental outlook toward the growing industry.