Budget introduces broadband tax, loans for SMBs

Alistair Darling

Alistair Darling officially introduced the 50 pence broadband tax to parliament today, as he unveiled the Labour government's last budget before an election.

The broadband tax, created as part of the Digital Economy Bill currently being pushed through parliament, was introduced in a few brief lines.

"Access to high-speed broadband is essential to deliver these goals," Darling said, referring to goals to boost innovation and competition in the UK.

"We have taken the decision to ensure the benefits are spread to rural as well as urban areas and are not limited to the better off," he added.

"The 50 pence monthly landline duty will unlock private investment and enable 90 per cent of the country to access the next generation of super-fast broadband by 2017," he said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier this week promised superfast broadband across the UK by 2020.

Support for SMBs

Small businesses saw some attention in the form of tax breaks and more bank loans.

Darling said that RBS and Lloyds have promised 94 billion in new bank loans, with half going to SMBs. The government will also set up a new UK Finance For Growth body, to help support SMBs and dole out the 4 billion in financial support given to small firms.

The Government will also boost the amount of central government contracts given to SMBs by 15 per cent. "This could mean new business worth an extra 3 billion from central government alone and up to 15 billion across the wider public sector," Darling said.

He also promised that 80 per cent of invoices would be paid within five days.

Darling also said the Government would give SMBs more time to pay taxes, doubled the investment allowance to 100,000 and doubled relief for Capital Gains Tax.

He said it would offer "better access to finance, improved procurement, lower taxes and more time to pay them... benefiting hundreds of thousands of small businesses providing the backbone of future economic growth and jobs."

Among other tech-related announcements, the budget also promised to create 20,000 university places predominately in maths, science, technology and engineering and announced the creation of a green investment bank.