Investment decline continues but Conservatives would cut capital allowances

Business investment fell by 21.7% year-on-year in Q3. The falls are widespread. But Conservative plans would create a worse climate for business investment

Left Foot Forward has previously argued that the fall in investment is the real driver of the recession, and the biggest threat to recovery.

Today’s Q3 Provisional Business Investment Release from the ONS underlines this point.  Business investment fell by 21.7 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter and is now a staggering 24.1 per cent below its Q2 2008 peak. The falls are wide spread as the chart below shows.

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Construction (down 42.3 per cent) has been especially hard hit, while manufacturing investment is down 28.9 per cent and service sector investment has fallen 28.1 per cent.

Urgent measures are required to reverse the slide in investment. David Cameron, as part of his plans to fund a cut in corporation tax, is planning the exact opposite. He said yesterday that he would fund cuts in corporation tax “by scrapping complex reliefs and allowances.” In practice this would mean (p.8-9):

  • Abolishing the £50,000 annual investment allowance
  • Reducing general plant and machinery capital allowances to 12.5 per cent
  • Reducing long life plant and machinery capital allowances to 6 per cent

These measures are likely to lead to an even worse climate for business investment and hence mean a slower recovery. A spokesperson for the EEF manufacturers’ organisation told Left Foot Forward:

“There are two issues here. How you address the lack of confidence in the economy and the long-term competitivenesss of the tax system. EEF are looking for the continuation of support including first year capital allowances to be extended for 12 months.

“In the long run, while headline rates of corporation tax are important in terms of international competition, from a manufacturing perspective the importance of capital allowances cannot be underestimated. We would not support moves to put UK manunfacturing and their investment plans at a disadvantage particularly at a time when we’re looking to rebalance the UK economy.”

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