We’re living through highly unusual times and this was a highly unusual Budget.
Any Chancellor who threw cash around in the manner that Rishi Sunak announced at the despatch box earlier this month would normally, quite rightly, be the subject of intense questioning and huge political pressure. Yet there has been barely a murmur of dissent.
That’s because there is an almost complete consensus that the economy continues to require support on a huge basis as we hopefully emerge from the pandemic.
For the fleet industry, as for everyone else, it is this broad macroeconomic largesse that remains crucial. Everything from the continuation of furloughing schemes to the various new grant and loan programmes for businesses are still, we believe, essential for the time being.
However, that means there was relatively little detail for the fleet sector to discuss.
The 130% capital allowances super-deduction is an intriguing idea and we understand it can be applied to some fleet-specific plant and equipment, possibly including charging facilities for fleets adopting EVs.
This is an outstanding opportunity to suitably equip company car parks with bays of chargers and we’d like to see employers taking advantage of this opportunity.
Elsewhere, freeports are a key element of the Government’s post-Brexit regeneration policy and, if successful, the new sites announced could become significant hubs of fleet activity both for cars and commercial vehicles but this is a medium to-long term strategy and will have little effect for some years.
In terms of immediate disappointments, it would have been constructive to see some direct help for dealers and for daily rentals. Both have had a very tough time and are good candidates for specific forms of assistance.
Also, we feel that kerbside charging for people without a driveway is the major weak spot in national EV adoption and we’d like to have heard more about how the Government intend to fill this hole and increase the grants available. Beyond that, there is not much to add.
There remains a list of fleet-specific matters that we believe the Government needs to tackle – ranging from the future of benefit-in-kind taxation in a fleet industry where EVs will become the dominant type of company car through to wider transport issues such as road charging – but all of them will have to wait until the coronavirus waters have calmed.
However, it is probably important to acknowledge that the need to claw back the massive spending that is currently taking place has changed the backdrop against which discussions of these issues will eventually take place.
To return to my original theme, the crucial development is that businesses and individuals continue to be financially supported through the historically difficult conditions that we are all facing.
On that front, the Chancellor appears to have unquestionably delivered – although only someone who hadn’t been paying attention to the capricious nature of the pandemic so far would bet against further, targeted help being needed in the future.
This appeared in the March edition of Fleet News.