CREDIT: CARL COURT/ WPA POOL
Britain’s small businesses publicly savaged the Chancellor’s national insurance hike, criticising it as an anti-enterprise move in public messages on online social media.
Businesses tweeted out their anger, with the Daily Telegraph Business Tracker, compiled by Impact Social, showing that most posts in the 24 hours after Philip Hammond started speaking gave a negative opinion – a worrying sign for the Chancellor as the Conservative party traditionally counts entrepreneurs among its core supporters.
Excluding neutral tweets, such as articles explaining the key Budget announcements, just over half of the messages were critical of the Budget.
Of those negative tweets, the majority are linked to the rise in national insurance contributions targeted at self-employed workers.
Impact Social’s analysis, which tracks around 25,000 small businesses and their bosses online, revealed that 20pc of the critical posts referred to the NICs on the self employed directly, while another 10pc said it was NICs on ideas.
Another 14pc complained that this hike is a u-turn on a Conservative manifesto promise not to raise the levy, while a further 15pc said the Budget overall was “anti-business”.
The focused message against the tax changes indicate a proposal viewed as toxic among Britain’s vocal small business community.
A far smaller proportion of the complaints mentioned any other topic, indicating that the NIC rise was a bungled step in a Budget which otherwise may well have been welcomed as a broadly sensible set of proposals from a small business point of view.
The business rates review has been a key focus for small businesses, particularly those in London and the south east where property values have risen and so the local tax is rising sharply.
Other complaints were less specific, arguing instead that the Chancellor had done little to improve businesses’ prospects.
Just under half of companies were positive about the Budget, citing a range of disparate topics, reflecting the long list of smaller announcements from Mr Hammond.
In contrast to the substantial number complaining about a lack of action on business rates, only 7pc of the positive tweeters referred to the local tax changes, indicating the extent of opposition to the policy.
The largest upbeat proportion was the 22pc who labelled the fiscal event a “good budget”, reflecting general optimism.
A slightly smaller 21pc praised the extra funds going into social care, education or the NHS – public services which have been under strain, leading to intense pressure for an injection of cash.
Those elements of the public sector may not usually be considered a business topic, but they are big customers for SMEs supplying the public sector, and the individuals who make up the small business community may be just as likely as any other Britons to wish for a stable, functional system of public services, voicing their opinions publicly on the matter after the Budget.
One-in-10 of the Budget enthusiasts praised investment in the 5G mobile network, while 9pc of tweets welcomed extra support for technology and research and development.
Those factors both play into the theme of boosting British infrastructure in the digital age to make it easier to do business online or on the move.
Boosting productivity across the country is another favourite topic of the Chancellor, who hopes that extra technological investment and improved infrastructure can improve output per worker and so lead to higher wages. The extra investment in education – particularly in technical training and qualifications – is also intended to help companies find better workers.
Upgrades to the economic forecasts were noted by 9pc of the positive firms.
What is the Daily Telegraph Business Tracker?
The Daily Telegraph Business Tracker is an analysis compiled by Impact Social.
It tracks the Twitter messages of 25,000 British companies and business people, searching their public posts for indicators of their sentiment towards the state of the economy, their own business performance, and their reaction to government policies.
In the time from 12 noon on Wednesday to 11am on Thursday they had tweeted more than 10,000 times.
Those aggregated search results are then analysed manually by Impact Social’s researchers to assess whether the messages are positive, negative or neutral.
That process also strips out posts which are promotional, leaving only the businesses’ opinions on the topics in question.